Oversight

A weekly rundown of the latest efforts of lawmakers to scrutinize the actions of the executive branch.

•Senate Finance Committee (3/15/07) — Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are questioning why the IRS is outsourcing the writing of some of its agency rules to outside groups. Both men wrote letters to the Treasury’s inspector general wondering which procedures the department takes in writing its tax policies.

“We don’t need K Street lawyers writing enforcement regulations to help their clients create tax shelters,” Grassley said. “That would be worse than a camel’s nose under the tent. It would be the whole caravan. We might as well have the Justice Department let defense counsels write sentencing guidelines.”

•House Armed Services Committee (3/14/07) — Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) have asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review allegations that soldiers with pre-existing medical conditions are being sent into combat.

“The continued high operational tempo and the President’s recent decision to surge the force in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom is placing a heavy stress on the force,” Skelton wrote to the GAO.  “However, we cannot let these demanding deployments drive the force to send unfit wounded and injured service members into combat.”

The committee wants to examine whether the armed services were deploying troops into combat situations that were outside the soldiers’ physical capabilities.

•House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (3/16/07) — After hearing testimony from former CIA agent Valerie Plame, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was baffled with the steps the White House took following the public disclosure of Plame’s covert identity.

“The testimony at today’s hearing described breach after breach of national security requirements at the White House,” Waxman wrote to Josh Bolten, the president’s chief of staff.

Waxman requested that Bolten provide the committee with a complete account of the steps the White House took following the disclosure of Plame’s identity to the press, investigate how the leak occurred, and discipline all officials tied to it.