The chairman of a key congressional subcommittee says the Obama administration is increasingly refusing to cooperate with departmental inspectors general, and he says it’s time to publicly name those obstructing critical investigations.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., is a member of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee and is the new chairman of its government operations subcommittee.
In August, 47 inspectors general complained to Congress that government agencies were hindering investigations by declaring many documents privileged and claiming they could not be turned over. The full committee heard testimony on Wednesday from the inspectors general of the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Peace Corps. Meadows said the problem has not gotten any better.
“Not much progress has been made, so we’ve asked them to start naming names,” he said. “We want to know who within the agencies is stonewalling the inspectors general, because they’re the first line of defense for the American people.”
Meadows said the refusal of government to be responsive to taxpayers is leading to some government employees getting away with unethical and possibly criminal behavior.
“One instance that we heard about was a federal employee at a high level with 16 counts of sexual harassment allowed to get off scot-free and retire,” he said. “It’s troubling when you have that going on, so we’ll be drilling down on that to make sure that they get the information they need.”
Are there steps lawmakers can take besides publicly identifying officials refusing to cooperate with investigators? Meadows said there are, and Congress will be exploring them.
“One, we can look at the Freedom of Information Act. That’s part of our jurisdiction to allow the free flow of information there. Most of those are not being complied with,” he said. “There will have to be more lawsuits from the private sector there. On a federal level, I think what you’ll start to see is strong cooperation with subpoena power from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to help.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.:
The IRS will remain on the front burner for the committee as well. Meadows said the subcommittee he chairs is about to shine the light on the tax collectors over a a major fiscal headache about to strike due to the new health-care law.
“You’ll see some additional hearings with regard to the IRS, specifically as it relates to the Affordable Care Act. We’ve got information that would lead us to believe that close to three million people who are enrollees in the Affordable Care Act are actually getting the wrong subsidies, and they’ll be getting a tax bill next year,” said Meadows, who noted that his work is primarily focused on Americans getting a much better value for their tax dollars.
“We’ll be holding a series of hearings there as well as a few others on how to make our government employees a lot more accountable and efficient,” he said.
Meadows is also one of the founding members of the new House Freedom Caucus, which is designed to prod leadership toward pursuing the conservative agenda promised in the midterm election. At the top of the agenda is finding a way to stop the funding of President Obama’s unilateral action on immigration, which conservative critics describe as executive amnesty.
Last month, the House of Representatives approved funding for the Department of Homeland Security while withholding money for implementation of Obama’s program to grant legal status to some five million adults in the U.S. illegally. On Tuesday, the Senate failed to clear a procedural hurdle, making it very unlikely the bill will even get to Obama’s desk. The president has already promised a veto if it were to pass both chambers.
So what is the House Freedom Caucus strategy now that the first one appears likely to fail? Meadows said it’s too soon to concede and the GOP could end up “possibly bifurcating some of the appropriations, where you allow the national security to continue to be funded but yet the president’s actions not funded.”
As conservatives fight to block Obama on immigration, Meadows said the House Freedom Caucus will be actively involved in other debates as well.
“I think we’ll see some workplace enforcement issues, as it relates to the federal government, to allow for an easier process of not only rewarding good behavior in the federal government but punishing bad behavior,” Meadows said.
“And then transparency. I met with my Democrat ranking member the other day and looking at transparency in terms of emails and the way that we communicate, so that the American public can actually see what is going on and hopefully weigh in.”
Meadows said the most important function of the House Freedom Caucus is to remind everyone on Capitol Hill who they work for.
“We’ve got to listen to the people that get us here,” he said. “Somehow, when people come to Washington, D.C., they automatically believe that they need to think differently. I find my best ideas come from back home in North Carolina, where I’m representing. So if we listen to those people and let their voice count, things will work out.”
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