Congressman Henry Waxman, would-be Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, should the Democrats retake the House majority, has a gift for timing. He conducted an interview with National Journal (subscription required), in which he talked about the bipartisan manner of leadership he would bring to the Government Reform Committee if he became Chairman, and lamented the 'partisan witch hunts' that the Committee is known for:
Waxman Says He Would Lead Panel In Bipartisan Manner
House Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the outspoken 16-term lawmaker whose passion for oversight has been directed at corporate giants in the auto and tobacco industries, is quietly laying the groundwork for chairing the watchdog committee if Democrats win back the majority in November.
"If I became chairman I would focus on two things. One, that I maintained a good working relationship with [Government Reform Chairman Davis], and two, that I would take a more vigorous approach in areas where taxpayer dollars have dissipated," Waxman said in an interview with CongressDaily. "I wouldn't disappoint myself if I were chairman," he said with a smile.
Waxman, who joined the Government Reform Committee just after his party was thrown into the minority in 1994, would also focus on a host of other issues that he says are lacking congressional oversight. In a quick response that suggested he had considered the prospect of taking over the committee, he rattled off as top priorities congressional investigations into the prison abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib; the intelligence used by the White House to justify going to war in Iraq; no-bid contracts for reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, and evaluating how GOP-sponsored legislation in the House undermines state authority.
Waxman released a study on the state pre-emption issue last week, but said he did not lobby for the full committee to take it up because "I didn't want to put Chairman Davis on the spot ... and I didn't think he'd want to" push the topic himself.
The bipartisan approach to oversight that Waxman imagines would be vastly different than in the days when Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., was at the helm during the Clinton administration -- the last time the House and White House were controlled by opposite parties. Burton led a series of contentious hearings looking into the Clinton administration's campaign finance practices, an investigation that Waxman once called "a partisan witch hunt," according to the Almanac of American Politics.
But in today's embittered political climate, widely considered more partisan that ever, Waxman admits it would be difficult to make friends on the other side of the aisle while conducting his own investigations. "A lot of our legislation will not move very far," he said, noting that even if Democrats win back the House in November, their chances in the Senate are less optimistic.
Waxman also voiced a longing for the return of "a real deliberative process" over legislation at the committee level and bemoaned the increasing use of suspension of the rules to pass bills. The result, he said is that "the expertise of members on both sides of the aisle have become less important."
The lawmaker points to the pending overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service overhaul bill as an example of substantive legislation handled in a bipartisan manner. The legislation, awaiting conference, stands to revamp the postal service for the first time in 30 years, changing how the agency raises rates and operates its pension plans. The ranking member said discussions have been free from partisan bickering because, "I think Chairman Davis decided he wanted to make it that way."
By Jessica Brady
What else happened yesterday? Well, someone named Henry Waxman - obviously not the same 'bipartisan' Henry Waxman - asked Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis to convene hearings into Karl Rove, and his conduct with regard to the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame.
Could he not even wait a day?
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