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House Dems: Administration ignoring hundreds of oversight requests

House Dems: Administration ignoring hundreds of oversight requests
© Greg Nash

House Democrats pushed the Trump administration on Monday to acknowledge officially if it has instated a new policy not to respond to oversight requests from Congress unless they are signed by senior Republicans.

The office of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who chairs a Democracy Reform Task Force, has tracked about 275 unanswered Democratic request letters since President Trump’s inauguration in January.

Sarbanes's office tallied 118 unanswered oversight requests from three days after the inauguration to March 17 alone.

Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) and Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerUber CEO calls for new benefits system for gig economy workers West Coast Dems lead call to fund early warning system for earthquakes Overnight Cybersecurity: Top Dems seek data from GOP analytics firms | Georgia election server wiped after lawsuit | Corker says Trump officials implementing Russia sanctions MORE (Wash.) sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general and acting director to request written confirmation of the policy after the agency declined to respond to a separate oversight request.

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They had previously sent a letter to OPM last month asking about the federal cybersecurity hiring and training process.

Two weeks later, an OPM official told Rice’s staff over the phone that the agency wouldn’t answer the letter because of the policy allowing them only to only respond to requests co-signed by committee or subcommittee chairmen, according to Rice’s office. 

Reports emerged last week that the White House is telling agencies to ignore oversight requests that come from only Democratic lawmakers and aren't signed by committee chairmen. Such a policy would help prevent the release of information that could be politicized by Democrats and appear damaging to the Trump administration.

It effectively ensures that the Trump administration would only have to answer to Republican oversight requests, since the party controls both the House and Senate.

In their letter on Monday, Rice and Kilmer asked OPM to clarify how long the policy has been in place and if other agencies are implementing it. If the Trump administration is unwilling to engage with Democrats on matters like cybersecurity hiring, they argued, lawmakers would have difficulty fulfilling basic oversight functions.

“While we are not members of the president's political party, we have a responsibility to work with this administration — as we would with any administration — on issues where we can find common ground, and we believe cybersecurity is such an issue,” they wrote.

“If this administration is categorically prohibiting basic communication with Democrats, then they are prioritizing politics and loyalty over national security and common sense, and making it nearly impossible for members of Congress to do our jobs.”