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Is It January Yet?


Not that I want to rush right past Christmas morning at our house or anything (because, really, The Peanut is at the perfect age this year where the whole tree and lights and Santa are magic, and that is a LOT of fun)…but I've spent a little time trying to figure out what oversight Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) ought to start with, and the choices are pretty much endless.

People often say something is "endless," but they don't really mean it.  But in all honesty, just looking at the mess that has been made by the Bush Administration in so many areas of government — it just may be endless.

And the fact that Henry Waxman gets to conduct these hearings under rules that the Republicans themselves set-up to play their intricate game of gotcha with the Clinton White House Christmas Card list?  Priceless.

Come January, however, the man that the liberal Nation magazine once called the "Eliot Ness of the Democrats" can do even more, thanks to the two words that strike fear in the heart of every government official: subpoena power. As the new chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Waxman will have free rein to investigate, as he puts it, "everything that the government is involved with." And the funny thing is, Waxman can thank the Republicans for the unique set of levers he will hold. Under a rules change they put through in the days when they used the panel to make Bill Clinton's life miserable, the leader of Government Reform is the only chairman who can issue subpoenas without a committee vote. Then Chairman Dan Burton–who famously re-enacted the suicide of Clinton deputy White House counsel Vince Foster by shooting at what he called a "head-like thing" (later widely reported to be a melon) in his backyard–issued 1,089 such unilateral subpoenas in six years. Since a Republican entered the White House, the G.O.P. Congress has been far less enthusiastic in its oversight. Waxman likes to point out that the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony to get to the bottom of whether Clinton had misused the White House Christmas-card list for political purposes, but only 12 hours on prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Iraq will get new attention with Waxman in power. This week he plans to send a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanding information on Halliburton's $16 billion contract to provide services to troops there. Waxman's staff has been poring over the fine print of that deal for more than two years, and is convinced that much of the money is slipping between layer upon layer of subcontractors.

Good-bye Republican rubber stamp parliament bent on revenge and cashing in on the spoils and…well, not much else. Hello real Congress doing it's job on issues of substance. Anyone else looking forward to January, too?

For more on potential areas of interest for Henry Waxman's committee, take a peek at this article that Jane did recently.  As Jane said:

The goals that Henry Waxman is pursuing are all laudable objectives that should be the goal of any adult tasked with Congressional oversight regardless of party. And if the more conservative members of the party are more likely to be susceptible to taking money from lobbyists and shirk this responsibility it doesn't make them "centrists," it makes them crooks.

Amen. More grown-ups please. Less self-dealing cronyism. More adults please. Less juvenile payback malarky. More oversight and checks and balances. Less Bush White House run amok among the rubber stamp Republicans who don't know how to say no. If ever a group of people needed a grown-up around, it is these people. Is it January yet?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com