Oversight

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

House Foreign Affairs Committee: (6/25) — Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte urging him to hire translators whom the Army fired because of their sexual orientation.

ADVERTISEMENT
“We are writing to you regarding one of the most regressive, counterproductive policies we could ever imagine: our military’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” they said in the letter.

Lantos and Ackerman noted that the military has discharged more than 300 translators, including for Arabic.

“We see no reason why our nation’s diplomatic mission should suffer for the military’s lack of vision,” they added.

•House Finance Committee: (6/21) — Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) sent a letter to financial regulators from several agencies last week to inquire about compliance with the Social Security Act.

“I am writing to inquire what actions your agency is taking to ensure that the financial institutions that you regulate comply with the Social Security Act’s explicit prohibition on the garnishment of federal benefits to Veterans, the elderly and the disabled,” Frank wrote. “I have received some information that some banks routinely freeze accounts containing these benefits when they receive garnishment or attachment orders. The consumer is generally denied access to the funds in the frozen account.”

•Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: (6/25) — Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) released a statement saying the Department of Agriculture (USDA) must team up with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prevent and control an outbreak of bird flu.

“Quick containment of a bird flu outbreak in this country is essential to reducing the disastrous impact it would have on the poultry industry and on the life-threatening dangers of a human pandemic,” the senators said. “USDA has taken initial steps toward preventing an outbreak. But we are troubled that it has not fully taken advantage of the resources and capabilities of DHS.”

The senators referenced a Government Accountability Office report that found that while the USDA has moved to prevent an outbreak, it is not planning with DHS, which would coordinate federal agencies were an emergency declared.