Oversight

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

House Committee on Homeland Security (7/11) — Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, calling on him to explain remarks that appeared in The Chicago Tribune, in which the secretary said he had a “gut feeling” the country will be at a higher risk of attack this summer.

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“With all the resources you have at your disposal and all the progress that you assure us that you are making, I cannot understand why you are quoted in The Chicago Tribune as saying you have a ‘gut feeling’ that we are entering a period of heightened risk this summer,” Thompson said.

“The Committee on Homeland Security has repeatedly emphasized the importance of getting specific, actionable information to our first preventers in law enforcement and other emergency response providers. I urge you to follow up on your ‘gut feeling’ and share whatever information our nation’s first preventers need to be on alert and prepared,” he added.

House Committee on Science and Technology (6/29) — Two subcommittee chairmen, Reps. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), introduced an amendment that would prohibit the White House Office of Management and Budget from using funds to implement an executive order that, according to the committee, would allow “political appointees … to dictate health and safety decisions at federal agencies out of the shadows.”

“This amendment stops the provisions of the order that flagrantly claim for the president the power to rewrite almost every law...,” Miller said.

The executive order would change the rules of federal agencies to determine first whether “market failure” has occurred before deciding if the government should take action. As a result, “a Bush political appointee in each agency would be empowered to stop agencies from even beginning a move towards regulation,” according to the committee.

House Committee on Natural Resources (6/28) — Before the Fourth of July recess, 36 House Democrats from California and Oregon sent a letter to Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) urging him to investigate the role Vice President Dick Cheney played in the development of a 10-year water plan for the Klamath River that resulted in the deaths of about 70,000 salmon in their states in 2002.