House to Consider Expanded Oversight of Agencies
UPDATE 7 p.m. ET: The oversight proposal will not be included in tomorrow's House rules package, according to a House leadership aide. It will instead be considered as a separate bill as early as next week, according to another House leadership source.
ORIGINAL POST: The House is expected to take up a bill soon that would greatly increase oversight of federal agencies and departments in an effort to reduce waste, fraud and abuse.
The measure would require committees to conduct hearings whenever an inspector general's report turns up misuses of government resources and personnel. It could be considered tomorrow as part of the House rules package that is traditionally approved at the start of each session of the House, or might pass next week as a standalone bill.
The House passes a rules package at the start of each new session. In 2006 for example, the rules package included a ban on gifts from lobbyists and name changes for some committees.
Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), the lead sponsor of the oversight bill, first proposed similar measures in May 2006. They would have required required congressional hearings within 60 days of IG reports about mismanagement resulting in the loss of more than $1 million and would have required cabinet secretaries to appear before Congress when auditors corrected an agency's audit. Tanner's current pitch differs from his original one.
"Congressman Tanner is working with House leadership to ensure the 111th Congress' rules package provides for strong oversight and accountability of government spending," said spokesman Randy Ford, who could not provide specifics of the new proposals. He said the rules package will be finalized in time to be brought to the floor immediately after Congress convenes tomorrow.
Details of any expansion of the House's oversight responsibilities are still being discussed and are not guaranteed to pass with the Rules package tomorrow, a House source said. Regardless, some suggest the government should take a more proactive approach.
“You can talk about having congressional hearings, and triggers about when you have congressional hearings, but you have to make sure that your oversight mechanisms actually have the capacity to exercise the oversight," says Kenneth M. Mead, special counsel at Baker Botts LLP who served as the Department of Transportation's inspector general during the Clinton administration.
“We’d also ought not limit them to identifying potential waste and fraud," Mead said of Congress. "They also should require a congressional hearing about what each agency is doing to prevent waste and fraud in the first instance.”
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