Last Thursday, the Constitution Project released a handbook on congressional oversight and investigations authored by the incomparable Mort Rosenberg, who spent more than 35 years at the Congressional Research Service not only learning everything there is to know about congressional oversight of the executive branch but participating in most of the major executive-legislative disputes during that time. For reasons known only to itself, CRS let him retire, which means that he is now free to share his encyclopedic knowledge with the world.
The following quote from the book summarizes its purpose: “As the title of this handbook suggests, it is designed to be an introduction to the legislative investigatory process. It is intended to shed some light on this aspect of the arcane, sometimes impenetrable, and often seemingly bizarre “Law of Congress” that can confound the most sophisticated legal practitioners representing government and private clients before an inquiring committee, and which may even elude the members and staff of committees conducting such inquiries. The law of congressional investigation consists of a complex combination of constitutional rulings and principles, statutory provisions, Byzantine internal rules adopted by the House and Senate and individual committees, informal practices, and folkways. Although there is no black letter guide for the uninitiated, we hope that this handbook will provide a first step in that direction.”
Entitled “When Congress Comes Calling:A Primer on the Principles, Practices, and Pragmatics of Legislative Inquiry,” this book is full of cites to the kinds of “precedents” that can’t be found in Westlaw or Lexis. Congressional investigative staff, agency lawyers and anyone who practices in this field will want to be sure to have a copy of this work on the shelf.