So explained Charles Tiefer, former Solicitor and Deputy General Counsel to the House and former Assistant Senate Legal Counsel, speaking at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform yesterday. Tiefer was not talking about the latest congressional sex scandal, but advocating for an aggressive congressional posture when the executive branch withholds information sought by a committee in the course of conducting oversight.
Tiefer was joined on the panel by Mort Rosenberg, Lou Fisher and Todd Tatelman. I would explain who these guys are, but you probably already know, or else you would have stopped reading after learning that this post is not Weiner-related.
The panel ably laid out the constitutional and historical basis for congressional oversight of the executive, including the House’s 1792 decision to appoint a special committee to investigate General Arthur St. Clair’s failed military operation against Indian tribes (referenced in my last post). They were speaking in the context of the Justice Department’s failure to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to “Operation Fast and Furious,” an ATF weapons sting that appears to have gone about as well as General St. Clair’s expedition. Most of the testimony, however, did not focus on the specifics of the particular information dispute, but on numerous historical examples of executive branch recalcitrance in the face of congressional oversight, and the need for persistence in overcoming these types of objections.
The hearing and/or written testimony is well worth reviewing by anyone interested in congressional oversight. The witnesses are certainly among the foremost experts on the subject. As Chairman Issa aptly concluded, “we haven’t brought this much intellectual capital to a hearing in a very, very long time.”
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It’s worth noting that a public version of Mort’s oversight handbook exists here: http://www.constitutionproject.org/pdf/175.pdf