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No Oversight, No Accountability

If Congress was graded on a report card, one of the subjects it would be graded on is oversight. Ensuring the faithful execution of the laws and rooting out mismanagement by the executive branch are core constitutional obligations of the House and Senate.

For this term, congressional Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee would have to receive an “incomplete” on oversight. They simply have not pursued questions in any meaningful way about the Biden Administration’s performance of its duties under the committee’s jurisdiction.

As the Republican Leader (also known as Ranking Member of the minority party) of the committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, this experience has been deeply frustrating. Whether the administration is Republican or Democrat, Americans deserve to know whether it is doing its job. In fairness, some of my Democrat colleagues share my frustration and do want to conduct proper oversight. The current leadership of the House majority, however, does not want to ask those questions.

In fact, the last hearing in 2021 of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations was held on September 29. The first hearing of 2022, held on January 20, focuses on cryptocurrency.

Without discounting the importance of cryptocurrency, I don’t believe it is the topic that should rouse the subcommittee from its nearly four-month slumber.

It was clear for months ahead of winter that fuel prices were surging, forcing Americans to dig deeper into their pockets just to stay warm. Yet no oversight hearings were held to examine how Biden Administration policies such as suspending oil and gas leases on federal land and canceling the Keystone XL pipeline played a part in diminishing our energy supply.

Inflation recently reached a high not seen since 1982. The committee could investigate this troubling trend and its various causes, such as supply chain interruptions, in the areas under our jurisdiction. But those investigations are not happening.

I and other committee Republicans have been pressing for answers from federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, on what they know about research on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Understanding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic is a first step toward accountability, but these agencies have dragged their feet from the outset of our investigation. Silence from the majority party on the committee enables this obstruction.

Holding no hearings for four months means little oversight over any aspect of the Federal Government’s coronavirus response, not just the origins of the pandemic. We have not heard testimony in person from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky since last March.

Without hearings, we cannot get answers from these leaders of the response or other top officials about how they’ve spent the trillions of dollars authorized by Congress to cope with the crisis, the lack of available tests, mixed messaging on how long to quarantine in the event of exposure, or any number of issues.

Without hearings, federal agency heads cannot be held accountable for why, after almost two years and long after the rest of the country has moved on, their taxpayer-funded personnel are generally not back in the office. The absence of federal employees from their offices has repercussions, including some of the supply chain problems contributing to inflation.

Our country’s broadband networks have received an influx of financial support, but money alone cannot solve the problem. We need to know where that money is spent, so places that already have service like Richmond and Roanoke do not receive funding to improve their connectivity at the expense of Southwest Virginia’s rural and more mountainous areas that lack it completely.

Committee Republicans have used the tools at our disposal to ask the tough questions and uncover what we can, but significant progress is difficult when the majority, which sets the agenda and can wield subpoena power, is unwilling. I suspect the present leadership of the majority on the committee won’t ask the questions because they don’t want the answers.

But it is our duty to ask the questions, wherever they lead. If I had the authority currently enjoyed by the majority, it would be used to fulfill our constitutional duty and push the Federal Government to better serve the American people. That should be a goal shared by members of both parties.

– Congressman Morgan Griffith

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