Congressional Oversight 2006

Great news! For a while there, it looked like the Republican leadership in Congress had basically rolled over and ceded unprecedented power to George Bush. Well, rest easy, because Senator Mitch McConnell, the second ranking Republican solon in the Senate, is on the case. As he said to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday this week, "There's nothing wrong with congressional oversight."

Wow, checks and balances. Just the way our Founding Fathers designed it. Of course, the problem with the Republican leadership in the Senate and the House is that they clearly believe there's nothing too right with congressional oversight either. Why did the president think he could interpret the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force as a green light for no-warrant domestic wiretaps?

Because he was convinced he could get away with it. And with spayed and neutered watchdogs like Mitch McConnell in the Senate, it's easy to see why Bush believed he could do as he pleased. The NSA domestic spy program was allowed to flourish because of a lack of oversight and, unless the public stands up and makes a stink, the Senate's response to the scandal will be more of the same.

Already, there are reports that the White House is trying to get the hearings on the legality of its actions moved out of Arlen Specter's Judiciary Committee and placed in Pat Roberts's Intelligence Committee, where the hearings could be more easily closed to the public (And Roberts has already proven himself to be a master at burying investigations that might prove problematic to the administration).

Here's what McConnell said when Wallace asked him about the efforts to shift control of the hearings away from Specter, who has declared the White House's actions in the matter "no doubt…inappropriate:"

MCCONNELL: Well, look. Before getting to that, let's talk about the facts. The facts are that the president believes very, very strongly that he has the constitutional authority and that the resolution we passed in 2001 in the war on terror gives him the authority to do what he did.
Go get 'em, tiger. As long as the President feels "very, very strongly" about it, it's probably fine. After all, when has the President ever been wrong about something he's felt "very, very strongly" about? I hear reports that there are, in fact, a few Republican senators who actually have a little pride in the institution, take its oversight duties seriously, and are disturbed by the precedent of this executive power grab. If so, it would appear that these hearings, or lack of them, will be something of a -- excuse my lack of Senatorial comity -- ball-check. We already know Senator McConnell's testicular status.

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