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Repairing The Tattered Congressional Spine


(Photo of tattered spine via timsamoff.)

***Note:  For any of our readers in the  Spencer, MA area, please do not drink water from your tap.  Turn on the news or local radio and get further information about a taint in the water supply immediately.  Thanks.***

It has been quite a day of Congressional activity today — Goodling use immunity vote and subpoena issuance vote both passed in the House Judiciary.  A vote for a subpoena for Sara Taylor (Rove's deputy in the WH political office) passed in the Senate judiciary.  A vote for subpoenas for the head of the RNC, the RNC e-mails that should have gone through the WH servers, and a vote for a subpoena for Condaleeze Rice all passed in the House Government Oversight Committee, after what seemed like a lifetime of attempts at amendments, stalling, and a whole lot of foot stomping from the GOP side of the aisle. 

Funniest moment of the day for me was watching Rep. Dan Burton argue with a straight face that "the Clintons did it, too," in a nasal indignant whine — and all I could think about was the Socks the Cat Mailing List investigation and that watermelon shooting.  As an aside, the Republicans in the House have apparently decided that ranking member Tom Davis has been ineffective at putting any brakes on Henry Waxman's full steam ahead approach to desperately needed oversight.  They deployed an irritatingly mouthy triumvarate of Reps. Burton, Mica and Issa to bluster their way through the hearing — which made it a bit of a slog for viewers, I have to say.  More here from the AP, via the NYTimes, which concludes with:

The barrage of subpoenas is an example of the Democrats' newfound power and the plethora of White House business from which they have to choose after six years of a Republican majority that did virtually no executive branch oversight.

That "virtually no executive branch oversight" phrasing truly is the understatement of the day. The formerly GOP-controlled Congress functioned as a rubber stamp parliament for the Bush Administration. But those days are over.

From the WaPo:

Republican leaders call it a "partisan witch hunt." But Democratic lawmakers, and even some Republicans, say it is an overdue return to their constitutional role of executive-branch oversight.

Since Democrats assumed control of Congress in January, they have hired more than 200 investigative staffers for key watchdog committees. They include lawyers, former reporters and congressional staffers who left oversight committees that had all but atrophied during the six years that the GOP controlled Congress and the White House. They have already begun a series of inquiries on subjects ranging from allegations of administration meddling in federal scientists' work on global warming and the General Services Administration's alleged work for Republican campaigns to how disproved claims that Iraq had purchased nuclear material from Niger evolved into a case for war….

Quietly, a cadre of seasoned investigators have been training inexperienced staffers in the nuts and bolts of holding the executive branch's feet to the fire. Every month, about 30 staff members attend workshops held on the Hill by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. The topics have included a crash course on government contracts, investigating private companies, and earlier this month, "Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers."…

But one of the biggest challenges is deciding what issue to dig into next, before the biggest spate of investigations in years is pushed off center stage by a heavy legislative agenda and the presidential primary season.

"Figuring out what priorities should be, particularly on committees that have not fulfilled their oversight function, is a big issue," a House staffer said. "There may be committees out there that haven't issued subpoenas in six years." But not for long, he said. (emphasis mine)

It is well past time that the tattered Congressional spine saw some repairs and some restoration to its mandate of legislation and oversight — it is only with the checks and balances functioning that we see any accountability from the executive branch.  And I cannot think of an executive branch more in need of some accountability than the Bush Administration.  Hello, sunshine.

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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