Oversight

•House Education and Labor Committee (3/22/07) — Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) chided the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) because of its alleged lax enforcement of safety at oil refineries. Witnesses of a 2005 fire at a BP refinery that killed 15 workers appeared before the committee.

“The BP explosion was the biggest workplace disaster in the last 18 years, yet it received very little congressional scrutiny until today,” Miller said in response to the witnesses’ testimony. “Even more upsetting is that two years after this catastrophe, we’re still seeing a disturbing pattern of major fires and explosions in U.S. refineries.”

Miller said the committee would hold additional hearings on OSHA to investigate the situation further. He added the BP fire in Texas attests to “the steep price we pay as Americans for not enforcing the nation’s laws that are supposed to protect working men and women in this country.

•House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (3/22/07) — Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate allegations of political interference in a recent Justice Department case against the tobacco industry. Waxman said Sharon Eubanks, the lead Justice Department attorney in the case, told Waxman she was concerned about the interfering role White House officials may have played in the case.

Waxman wrote in a letter to Gonzales that the White House told Eubanks to “hold up” on publishing an op-ed in USA Today about the tobacco case because “the White House wanted some changes.”

He urged Gonzales to provide all communications between the Justice Department and the White House in the suit against the tobacco industry, U.S. v. Phillip Morris. Gonzales is already under fire for his alleged connection to the U.S. attorneys scandal.

•House Ways and Means Committee (3/22/07) — Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told the IRS not to award any new private tax collection contracts this year. Rangel announced the committee was investigating the IRS’s use of private companies to collect on federal income tax debts.

“We have heard too many complaints and concerns about the tactics used by private debt collectors to allow the IRS to issue new contracts,” Rangel said. “We need to investigate these violations to ensure that we are protecting the privacy and dignity of taxpayers, not enabling harassment by these private companies.”