OPEN GOVERNMENT

A House Divided: What a Republican Majority Means for Oversight

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A House Divided

The ballots are in, the votes have been counted, and it’s official: for the 19th time since 1857, control of the House of Representatives has shifted parties and Republicans are set to rule with a 220-213 majority. Democrats did retain control of the Senate, which means that Congress is once again divided, making any meaningful legislative progress in either direction difficult. Even so, there is still one area where we are expecting to see significant activity coming from Congress and the newly Republican House: oversight.

The House Oversight Committee is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and it has a broad mandate. According to House Rules, the Committee shall review and study on a continuing basis:

  1. The application, administration execution, and effectiveness of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction;
  2. The organization and operation of federal agencies and entities having responsibilities for the administration and execution of laws and programs addressing subjects within its jurisdiction;
  3. Any conditions or circumstances that may indicate the necessity or desirability of enacting new or additional legislation addressing subjects within its jurisdiction (whether or not a bill or resolution has been introduced with respect thereto); and
  4. Future research and forecasting on subjects within its jurisdiction.

What does this all mean? It means everything is fair game for the Committee to dig into. And it means bureaucratic accountability is more important than ever for our customers and all public institutions who are about to be on the receiving end of an investigative onslaught. It’s critical they ensure their own houses are in order immediately.

Will your Office of Inspector General (OIG) be tasked with conducting additional audits or investigations? Our eCASE Audit and eCASE Investigations case management solutions automate these activities end-to-end, making these cumbersome processes much more manageable with applications tailored to the unique needs and requirements of Inspectors General (IG).

Will you be staring down the barrel of non-stop congressional inquiries? Our Correspondence solution is the perfect tool for Executive Secretaries to catch those questions and turn out answers – quickly and reliably.

Will you be ready when every investigation – every subpoena, every hearing, every speech and news appearance – engender dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests? As it has been for decades, FOIAXpress is the answer to your FOIA case management problems.

Better yet, when you adopt our solutions as a suite, you unlock the potential for even greater efficiencies. Investigations of your open government software for political interference? FOIA requests that duplicate Congressional Correspondence? IG Audits of your procurement activities and open contracts? AINS has you – and your whole middle office – covered and prepared for whatever the 118th, 119th, or even 125th Congress has in store.

As 2022 comes to a close, the Committee is reviewing everything from white supremacy to FITARA to Cannabis to postal operations to toxic aviation fuel to The Future of Federal Work to regenerative agriculture to the Washington Commanders and virtually everything in between. If it’s been on the front page of the Washington Post, you can be sure the Committee has been looking into it. And this oversight activity is just from one single committee. In doing much of its business, many other congressional committees, and even individual members of Congress, routinely engage in oversight-like investigative activities.

What can we expect from the 118th Congress? More oversight, with one major difference. Since the 117th Congress was controlled by Democratics, a good portion of its oversight activity was aligned with President Biden’s agenda. That’s why it focused on traditional Democrat agenda items like civil rights and environmental policy and included an external-facing focus on businesses, state and local institutions, and other federal government outsiders. But oversight committees controlled by an opposition party typically tend to focus a lot more inwards to act as a “check” on the current administration. Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has published his playbook.

“Our majority will have the obligation and authority to conduct rigorous oversight of the federal government, including using the government’s vast power to attempt to coerce private businesses to act against the freedoms and security of our citizens.”

We will leave no stone unturned in order to deliver the accountability the American people deserve. Too many decision points in the government are made by agency heads and implemented by unelected and unconfirmed government actors – all of whom need to be accountable to the American people. And with gavels and subpoena authority in the upcoming Congress, we will use interviews, subpoenas, depositions, and hearings to expose the truth.”

Already on the Republican docket:

  • Department of Homeland Security – “we will investigate every order, every action”
  • Big Tech – “we will investigate coordination and collusion with the Federal Government and intelligence officials to silence speech”
  • China – “we will … investigate [China] advancing its doctrine in U.S. academic institutions [and] malign influence, coercion, and lobbying efforts at the state, local, and federal level to advance their agenda”
  • Security and Defense – “we will [conduct an] audit of defense spending and foreign aid; including but not limited to Ukraine aid”
  • COVID-19 – “we will investigate the collusion within NIH to discredit the ‘lab leak’ theory”
  • Afghanistan Withdrawal – “we will investigate the decision-making process [and] intelligence failures that led [to the withdrawal, including] long-term geopolitical ramifications and their impact on U.S. national security”
  • Washington Spending – “Every dollar must be accounted for and all spending must be transparent and justified”
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)/Federal Bureau of Investigations (BI) – “House Republicans will investigate the investigators”, including “school board interference with [the] DOJ”, and “politicization of the FBI”
  • Education – House Republicans will investigate “Critical Race Theory and other woke educational doctrines,” COVID closures in local school districts, Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, and Department of Education and HHS policy mandates regarding gender and transgender care
  • Energy – House Republicans will investigate the Office of Natural Resources Revenue’s “royalty rate scheme” and the Department of Energy’s electric vehicle component grants
  • IRS – House Republicans will investigate “87,000 new IRS agents” and “unlawful leaks of private taxpayer data to media outlets”
  • Bureaucracy and the Administrative State – House Republicans will investigate “demanding statutory language for agency regulations”, “follow[ing]-up with each agency [per West Virginia v. EPA]”, “remote workforce limitations”, and “ethics compliance across the federal government.”

That is a non-exhaustive list and just the beginning. A quick glance shows the coming storm will touch every federal agency and hundreds, if not thousands, of state, local, and educational institutions. Get prepared now with AINS solutions.

-Ben Tingo

Ben Tingo is OPEXUS’ General Counsel and Vice President of Partnerships. He is an active member of the NARA FOIA Advisory Committee.

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