GAO Lists 13 'Urgent Issues' for Transition

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today published a list of 13 "urgent issues" facing President-elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress during Obama's transition into the White House and his first year in office.

The GAO also launched a transition website aimed at making Obama's transition "an informed and smooth one across the federal government." The site lists agency-by-agency issues, money-saving opportunities, management challenges, and a long-term fiscal outlook for the federal government.

The "urgent issues" published today are as follows:

Kucinich Calls for Investigation into How Bailout Funds Are Spent

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is calling for Congress to investigate whether banks are using the federal government's bailout money for fat bonuses.

The Treasury Department is planning to put $250 billion in equity into banks struggling in the financial crisis. Kucinich wants compensation data going back to 2003 from at least 11 banks participating in the program and for each employee making more than $500,000 annually.


Pelosi Calls for AIG Hearings

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked two house committees to hold hearings examining the Bush administration's regulation of U.S. financial systems in light of today's federal buyout of Wall Street giant AIG.

"I have asked Chairman Barney Frank of the Financial Services Committee and Chairman Henry Waxman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold a series of hearings that will examine the Bush Administration

GAO: Congress Should Demand Reports on Withdrawal Planning

Congress should demand that the Department of Defense (DoD) give detailed reports on its plans to withdraw troops from Iraq as those plans develop, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended today in a new report.

"Without more specific reporting from [DoD], Congress may not be able to effectively exercise its oversight responsibilities" as troops and materiel begin to come home, the GAO wrote.

"Congress may wish to consider directing DOD to report specific details on the status of reposturing plans and how it intends to mitigate issues such as those we identify," the GAO recommended.

President Bush yesterday announced he would withdraw 8,000 troops from Iraq by February, and the Bush administration is still negotiating with Iraq over how long and how many troops will stay there. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview earlier this summer that a 16-month timetable seemed right to him.

DoD's plans lack clearly defined roles and responsibilities for those managing the removal of equipment from Iraq, according to the GAO. DoD began planning for withdrawal in the fall of 2007, with a "logistical framework" coalescing in May 2008, the GAO found.

Today's report recommended DoD keep an eye on the following isses, mainly focusing on the removal of equipment, not soldiers themselves:
We identified the following nine issues that DOD should consider as it develops a comprehensive plan for reposturing U.S. forces from Iraq: (1) agreed-upon guidance for environmental cleanup and the disposition of property, which could affect the time and cost of closing bases in Iraq; (2) guidance and plans for the reposturing of contractors from Iraq; (3) accountability and disposition of contractor-managed government-owned property; (4) the possibility of restrictive conditions on the use of facilities in Kuwait and other neighboring countries; (5) availability of power-washing equipment and stands, called wash racks, and the number of customs inspectors in Kuwait; (6) capacity of military transports and convoy security assets, including limits on the main supply route; (7) increased demand for access to mental health care providers; (8) infrastructure requirements of returning units; and (9) requirements for training and equipment reset to restore readiness. DOD has begun to address these issues.

Senate Judiciary Committee to Review DoJ's Preparations for '08 Election

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet next Tuesday to review the Department of Justice's preparations for the 2008 presidential election, the committee announced this afternoon.

The department is responsible for enforcing U.S. voting laws and safeguarding citizens' right to vote. That includes upholding nondiscrimination laws and prosecuting election crimes.

The committee has requested testimony from the assistant attorneys general of the department's criminal and civil rights divisions, as well as a law professor from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Defense Dept. Assents to Subpoena, Cooperates with Sexual Assault Investigation

Defense Secretary Robert Gates will allow a Defense Department (DoD) official to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, reversing previous DoD protests and agreeing to cooperate with an investigation on sexual assault in the military, the committee announced today.

Dr. Kaye Whitley was instructed by superiors not to appear at a July 31 hearing on the matter despite a subpoena from the committee. Whitely serves as director of the DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

A superior official claimed that he, not Whitley, was accountable to Congress on the military's sexual assault prevention efforts.


Kennedy Knocks Labor Department Agency for Mine Oversight

A federal investigation found that the 2007 Crandall Canyon mining disaster in Utah was the result of a faulty mine design. Nine people died in the mine collapse, which had been blamed on an earthquake.

The investigation report, released Thursday by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, called for the mine operator to pay $1.6 million in fines.

A spokesman for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said that the federal agency should have done more to prevent the mine collapse and to stop the mine's operation.

Download the report here. See the statement by Kennedy spokesman Anthony Coley below and download Kennedy's own investigative report here.


Rep. Wasserman Schultz: Rove May Be Held in Contempt if He Doesn't Appear Thursday

Karl Rove, the former strategist for President Bush, may be held in contempt if he doesn't honor a subpoena and testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said.

The committee wants Rove to testify about his role in the firings of U.S. attorneys and the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D).

Wasserman Schultz, who has said before that the committee would be willing to arrest Rove if he didn't appear, said on MSNBC Tuesday that the House Democratic leadership has yet to decide whether it would actually hold Rove in contempt. But she said that Democrats would "explore all the options available."

"I know that those decisions have not been made," she said. "And I know that we are going to explore all of the options available. This is very serious. I mean, we're talking about somebody who has intricate detailed knowledge not just about the Don Siegelman case but a variety of things. And it is high time, long past time that he come in front of the Judiciary Committee and answer those questions, especially because he's answered them on national television."

She added that Democratic leaders have not asked the committee to take its rhetoric over Rove's appearance "down a notch."

"I mean, let me just tell you, we are all deadly serious about making sure that we can get the information that we believe we need," she said. "Congress, since the Democrats took over, has re-engaged in terms of our oversight role, which was nonexistent under the Republicans. And so, we take our oversight role very seriously."

Former White House official Brad Blakeman, who appeared with Wasserman Schultz on MSNBC, said that the House Judiciary Committee just wants "a show."

"And they want Karl to sit in a chair and ask him a ton of ridiculous questions, many of which he's going to have to invoke his privilege and the president's privilege and that's just ridiculous," he said.

Mukasey to Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee Next Week

The Senate Judiciary Committee will get a chance to question Attorney General Michael Mukasey at an oversight hearing July 9.

The appearance will be Mukasey's first before the Judiciary Committee since Jan. 30. Senate aides told The Hill's J. Taylor Rushing that specific topics had not yet been finalized, but an entire spectrum of topics are possible, ranging from funding needs and hiring practices to the issue of torture and the recent Supreme Court decision regarding detainee policies.