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Posted at 11:32 AM ET, 01/27/2011

Change comes in the form of congressional oversight

By Jennifer Rubin

For two years, the substance and the ramifications of Obama's legislative agenda went unchallenged by the House and Senate committees responsible for oversight. That is the reality of partisan politics, no matter how we may rail at the abdication of Congress's responsibilities. But the free ride has now come to an end. Oversight has begun. And guess what? The administration isn't very good at defending itself.

There was the rather devastating hearing before the House Budget Committee yesterday that undermined a great number of the ObamaCare supporters' claims. No, the law doesn't provide an effective means of restraining health-care costs. No, not everyone is going to keep their health-care plans. No, the estimated number of those to be put into the insurance exchanges is not realistic.

The public is getting quite an education, and the heat is being turned up on those Democrats who will be forced to vote on the repeal of all, or significant portions of, the very flawed legislation.

But it is not only on health care that the Obama administration is being scrutinized. The Post reports that lawmakers yesterday "grilled" Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on the cuts White House budget chief Jack Lew extracted from them. And the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), let it be known that he would "not support initiatives that will leave our military less capable and less able to fight." Wait until the administration's budget is presented and the House sees how badly defense spending has been slashed, not to bring down the deficit, but to fuel high-speed rails and other domestic boondoggles.

It was the same story House Energy and Commerce Committee. As Dave Weigel vividly describes, regulatory czar Cass Sunstein was forced to defend the "explosion" of regulations. It went like this:

"There has been an explosion of regulation and regulations issued in the first years of the Obama administration," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex. "Quite frankly, I didn't see that your organization has done anything to slow this down. I don't see that you've done anything to do what the new executive order says."

"If I may discuss the idea of explosion," said Sunstein. "The number of regulations issued in the last two years is approximately the same as the number issued in the last two years of the Bush administration."

This was a bit much for Barton. "Just the regulations issued under the new health care law are in the thousands!" he said.

He did no better on the deep-water drilling ban:

"When the Department of Interior came out with the moratorium on drilling," asked Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., "did you review that?"

"No," said Sunstein. "That wasn't a regulatory action within the meaning of Order 12866," the executive order that allows Sunstein's office to review draft regulations.

Scalise tried again. "At least it wasn't your feeling that it wasn't?"

"No," said Sunstein. "It doesn't fit within the definition of a significant regulatory action."

In sum, Sunstein seems to be in charge of everything that is not significant. The Obama team's hypocrisy when it comes to regulation -- against all burdensome regulations except for those in its own major legislative initiatives -- was exposed. Sunstein didn't make a gaffe but he certainly provided ammunition for the Republicans.

Will all of this matter? We will see, but the House is off to a fine start uncovering the flaws and false assumptions in the Obama agenda. It will be an interesting year, and an even more interesting presidential election in 2012.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 27, 2011; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  House GOP  
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Next: And what about Steve Cohen?

Comments

Isn't is amazing? For all the accolades from left heaped on Mr Sunstein and all the taxpayer money showered down on him via his insider position, he has no better reply for tough questions than that which we've come to expect from the garden variety liberals commenting on the WaPo blogs: "blah, blah, blah, Bush, blah, blah, blah"

To be frank, although I admire and respect Mr Bush, I don't view him as being particularly conservative.

Further, what Mr Sunstein didn't mention in the snippet provided is the simple fact that the vast bureaucracy that is the federal government is staffed with permanent (as in unfireable) unionized public employees and mid level "managers" who are very leftist in orientation. They believe that they cannot be held to account by any living mortal in the US and they will do as they please.

Finally, much of regulation that American suffers under is the result of congress abrogating its responsibility. How many bills passed by congress simply enable the bureaucrats to develop the operating mechanism? the answer is sad. Obamacare was filled with this type of weasel words.

Here's a recent example:
"Now comes Tom Quaadman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who doesn't quarrel with the Davis Polk estimate but has added rule-makings authorized by this legislation to those that are mandated and says that American businesses should expect a whopping 533 new sets of rules. To put this number in perspective, Sarbanes-Oxley, Washington's last exercise in financial regulatory overreach, demanded only 16 new regulations. Thus he reasons that Dodd-Frank "is over 30 times the size of SOX."

Mr. Quaadman may be selling Dodd-Frank short. Neither his analysis nor the one from Davis Polk counts duplicative rule-makings, when various agencies create different rules governing the same activity, as they are empowered to do in various Dodd-Frank provisions."

so here we have it: Congress abrogates its responsibility to the people who elected them and passes the buck to a left leaning an unaccountable bureaucracy that is presumably presided over by an educated elitist whose only response is "blah, blah, blah, Bush"

We are in deep trouble and unless we get angry and stay that way our freedoms will die the death of a thousand cuts. (or Federal register pages)

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 27, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Isn't is amazing? For all the accolades from left heaped on Mr Sunstein and all the taxpayer money showered down on him via his insider position, he has no better reply for tough questions than that which we've come to expect from the garden variety liberals commenting on the WaPo blogs: "blah, blah, blah, Bush, blah, blah, blah"

To be frank, although I admire and respect Mr Bush, I don't view him as being particularly conservative.

Further, what Mr Sunstein didn't mention in the snippet provided is the simple fact that the vast bureaucracy that is the federal government is staffed with permanent (as in unfireable) unionized public employees and mid level "managers" who are very leftist in orientation. They believe that they cannot be held to account by any living mortal in the US and they will do as they please.

Finally, much of regulation that American suffers under is the result of congress abrogating its responsibility. How many bills passed by congress simply enable the bureaucrats to develop the operating mechanism? the answer is sad. Obamacare was filled with this type of weasel words.

Here's a recent example:
"Now comes Tom Quaadman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who doesn't quarrel with the Davis Polk estimate but has added rule-makings authorized by this legislation to those that are mandated and says that American businesses should expect a whopping 533 new sets of rules. To put this number in perspective, Sarbanes-Oxley, Washington's last exercise in financial regulatory overreach, demanded only 16 new regulations. Thus he reasons that Dodd-Frank "is over 30 times the size of SOX."

Mr. Quaadman may be selling Dodd-Frank short. Neither his analysis nor the one from Davis Polk counts duplicative rule-makings, when various agencies create different rules governing the same activity, as they are empowered to do in various Dodd-Frank provisions."

so here we have it: Congress abrogates its responsibility to the people who elected them and passes the buck to a left leaning an unaccountable bureaucracy that is presumably presided over by an educated elitist whose only response is "blah, blah, blah, Bush"

We are in deep trouble and unless we get angry and stay that way our freedoms will die the death of a thousand cuts. (or Federal register pages)

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 27, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Darn that bought and paid for Joe Barton! So crafty and wise!! Can you quote another committee member who's a national joke???

Posted by: danw1 | January 27, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Darn that bought and paid for Joe Barton! So crafty and wise!! Can you quote another committee member who's a national joke???

Posted by: danw1 | January 27, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Excuse the double post
excuse the double post

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 27, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

And we all know your Post serials are the best!

Posted by: aardunza | January 27, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"Darn that bought and paid for Joe Barton! So crafty and wise!! Can you quote another committee member who's a national joke???"

danw1, you said approximately the same thing yesterday about Paul Ryan. Naturally, no particular reason was given. Ryan was "overrated." Now Barton is "bought and paid for" and a "national joke."

Would you care to explain who has "bought and paid for" Barton? And perhaps explain how he's a "national joke?" While you're at it, maybe you could also tell us why you think Paul Ryan is "overrated."

I expect no good answer to any of these questions of course (if you dare to answer at all). Forced to guess, I'd say you simply don't like the ideological positions of Republicans and find it easy to score some cheap points by insulting them on a blog where you don't have to back your mindless charges up.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | January 27, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

It's amusing to read all these smoking gun stories from Jennifer appear and disappear just as quickly.

Apparently, a high speed rail (that would held towards reduce dependency on oil imports) is a boondoggle, but buying F22 Raptors (that don't do what they're supopsed to) at 200 million a piece, is essential to America's survival.

In 2001, Rumsfeld told Congress that the Pentagon could not account for 2.6 trillion, an yet Jennifer is convinced the Republicans are going to show us how Oversight is supposed to work.

This should be a hoot.

Posted by: Shingo1 | January 27, 2011 11:39 PM | Report abuse

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