Sunday, March 18, 2007

Oversight & Enacting Legislation Not Mutually Exclusive

There was a rather curious opinion piece in the Washington Post today by David Broder, in which he criticized the Democratic majority for allegedly pursuing investigations of the White House at the expense of enacting legislation.

Revelation, not legislation?

As Broder wrote:
"Ten weeks into the new Congress, it is clear that revelation, not legislation, is going to be its real product.

"While President Bush threatens to use his veto pen to stop some bills and Senate Republicans block other measures from even reaching his desk, no force in Washington can halt the Democrats' investigative juggernaut from uncovering the secrets inside this administration."
Yet, following that, Broder comes up with the precise reasons why it is so important for the oversight investigations to go forward.

Why congressional oversight is so important

Regarding the prior lack of oversight, Broder observed:
"A Congress under firm Republican control was somnolent when it came to oversight of the executive branch. No Republican committee chairman wanted to turn over rocks in a Republican administration.

"You have to feel a twinge of sympathy now for the Bush appointees who suddenly find unsympathetic Democratic chairmen such as Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Patrick Leahy and Carl Levin investigating their cases. Even if those appointees are scrupulously careful about their actions now, who knows what subpoenaed memos and e-mails in their files will reveal about the past?

"They will pay the price for the temporary breakdown in the system of checks and balances that occurred between 2001 and this year -- when the Republican Congress forgot its responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable.

"It was a fundamental dereliction of duty by Congress, and it probably did more to encourage bad decisions and harmful actions by executive-branch political appointees than the much-touted lobbying influence. In reality, many Republican members of Congress did not mind what was happening because they were able to get favors done in that permissive climate. Now, the Democratic investigators will publicize instances of influence by members of Congress, and the political fallout will not stop with New Mexico's Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson."
Referring to 6 years of an oversight-free presidency as simply a temporary breakdown is a bit naive. Looking at the chaos a leash-free neo-con cabal has brought to global affairs will surely demonstrate that.

To me, one cannot legislate without at first making an attempt to get at some of the truth...a truth long denied to Congress.

Broder even acknowledges that the new majority party is "stymied by Republican opposition." Besides, Democrats do not have veto-proof majorities, so how much legislation can they realistically seek to get passed, on Iraq, for instance? They cannot even bust a presidential veto on stem-cell research which has widespread bipartisan support.

Yes, Mr. Broder, they can multi-task

So, what is Broder's point, as he closes with:
"Accountability is certainly important, but Democrats must know that people were really voting for action on Iraq, health care, immigration, energy and a few other problems. Investigations are useful, but only legislation on big issues changes lives."
There is no point, because oversight and enacting legislation are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, investigations that unearth unethical chicanery by the White House will more likely encourage others in the GOP to side with Democrats that seek reform and a change in direction.

Mr. Broder has to know that not only can investigations ultimately aid future legislation, but that Congress should be expected to have multi-tasking capabilities. So why does he seem so concerned that lawmakers may actually be doing their job?

Could it be that maybe we'll learn that the GOP was in bed with the press all along? That, somehow, the media was complicit in the scams perpetrated by Bushco?

Broder's column can be found here.

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