A Slight Oversight: Congressional Investigations of the Executive Branch Have Been Sandbagged by the White House and Its Allies on Capitol Hill. Can the Democrats Revive a Lost Art?

By Kuttner, Robert | The American Prospect, October 2006 | Go to article overview

A Slight Oversight: Congressional Investigations of the Executive Branch Have Been Sandbagged by the White House and Its Allies on Capitol Hill. Can the Democrats Revive a Lost Art?


Kuttner, Robert, The American Prospect


WHEN SENATE MAJORITY LEADER LYNDON Johnson became vice president in 1961, he persuaded his protege and successor, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, to let Johnson continue running the Senate Democratic caucus. The vice president, constitutionally and ceremonially, is Senate president, voting only to break ties. However, no vice president had ever proposed to function as a quasi-senator, much less caucus leader. Mansfield loyally acceded to Johnson's scheme, but the caucus rebelled. According to the official transcript quoted by biographer Robert Caro, Senator Mike Monroney of Oklahoma, a Johnson ally, indignantly warned, "We are creating a precedent of concrete and steel. The Senate will lose its powers by having a representative of the executive branch watching our private caucuses."

Quite so. But what LBJ, the most powerful majority leader in Senate history, could not obtain by persuasion, Vice President Dick Cheney, who never served in the Senate, simply arrogated. Cheney regularly attends Senate Republican caucus meetings, sometimes accompanied by Karl Rove. Just in case Cheney and Rove needed help keeping the caucus in line, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, was handpicked by the White House to succeed the ousted Trent Lott.

"It's totally unprecedented" says Democratic Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont. "The caucus is where you candidly discuss when to back the administration and when to adopt a different position." This executive-branch capture of the senatorial Republican Party helps explain how the Bush administration, despite plummeting public support and scandal after scandal, avoids one of the most fundamental of checks and balances--congressional oversight.

Congressional investigative hearings date back to March 1792, when the House of Representatives investigated a disastrously failed military mission into Indian territory, which left some 600 troops dead. President George Washington complied with the House's request for documents. A House select committee faulted the War Department's private contractors for supply failures. Premonitions of Halliburton--except that the Republican Congress has declined to investigate Halliburton.

Despite skirmishes over executive privilege, congressional oversight has been a key part of our system, regardless of which party controlled which branch--until the administration of George W. Bush.

The default of Republicans in Congress is staggering. No ongoing investigations on waste and incompetence at the Department of Homeland Security. Nothing on the vast self-serving mess that is the Medicare prescription-drug program. Nothing serious on the scandals by defense contractors in Iraq, or on Cheney's possible role in securing a $7 billion dollar no-bid contract for Halliburton, or on his secret energy task force. Nothing on the enforcement default by the Environmental Protection Administration and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. No serious oversight of the FBI. Precious little on the ongoing failure to rebuild New Orleans, or on Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, or the illegal domestic spying, or on the Justice Department's failure to enforce the right to vote. Nothing on the data-mining program that has revived the supposedly discarded John Poindexter plan by the back door.

The first notable breach in this solid wall of complicity with the White House came only in early September when Republicans Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe broke with the Intelligence Committee chairman, Bush loyalist Pat Roberts, and voted with committee Democrats to force Roberts to make public a confidential report. The report repudiated White House claims of intelligence support for links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and criticized the White House reliance on Ahmad Chalabi's Iranian National Congress. Even so, the committee report ducked the issue of administration manipulation of the intelligence community. This report gives a small glimmer of what checks and balances would be like, with a restoration of normal oversight. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Slight Oversight: Congressional Investigations of the Executive Branch Have Been Sandbagged by the White House and Its Allies on Capitol Hill. Can the Democrats Revive a Lost Art?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.