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

•House Agriculture Committee (5/9/07) — Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is investigating the government’s response to China-imported food and animal products that may have been “intentionally adulterated” with melanine.

“This raises serious concerns about the ability of our import inspection system to monitor the quality and safety of imports that enter our food supply,” Peterson said. “The next time tainted food or feed products slip through the very large cracks in our import inspection system, we may be forced to confront an even more serious situation in terms of animal or human health.”

The committee has been reviewing the contamination issue for the last few weeks, including hearing testimony from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

•House Education and Labor Committee (5/9/07) — Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) is digging deeper into unethical practices in federal student loan programs. According to Miller’s investigation, the financial company JP Morgan Chase was involved in several unethical doings, such as paying more than $70,000 for a harbor cruise for more than 200 college financial aid officers in 2005.

Miller urged U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings to take action.

“While it’s become clear over the last few months that conflicts of interest are pervasive in the student loan industry, it still stands out as particularly egregious that a lender would pay officials on the university payroll,” Miller said. “No matter which way you slice it, it is wrong for any financial aid office employee to also be working as a paid consultant for a lender.
... [It] is wrong for lenders to pick up the tab for lavish cruises held under the guise of a financial aid conference.”

•House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (5/4/07) — Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informing her that the State Department should not hinder the committee’s inquiry into the Bush administration’s use of forged evidence to build its case for the Iraq war.

According to Waxman, Rice’s legislative staff was trying to prevent a nuclear weapons analyst for the State Department, Simon Dodge, from testifying before the Oversight Committee.