tv Senator Grassley on Congressional Oversight CSPAN June 26, 2018 2:59am-3:47am EDT
is, that is a crock. women should be dignified, they should remember that when you disrobe it's very hard for people to take you seriously. a man look at a picture of a topless woman is not good to say, oh look at that athlete, isn't it wonderful that she has no problems with body image. no, he's going to think about sex and he's not going to think of her in a respectful way either. that's why i said, angela merkel, the chancellor of germany, would not take off her blouse to prove she doesn't have body image issues. if women want to be respected, they have to behave in a way that will elicit respect. >> >> next, senator grassley spoke at the heritage foundation about what he thought was an increasing shift of governing
power from the legislator to the executive branch. it's 45 minutes. >> good afternoon. welcome to the heritage foundation and our louis leirman auditorium. we of course welcome those who are joining us on our heritage.org website for all of these occasions. for our in-house guests, we ask that last courtesy check that our mobile devices have been silenced or turned off. for those watching online, you're welcome to send questions now or at any time in the future but simply gushed by simply emailing-- by simply
speaker at heritage.org. welcoming our guest and leading our program this afternoon is john malcolm. mr. malcolm serves as vice president for our institute for constitutional government. he is also the ed gilbertson and sherry gilbertson senior legal fellow. please join me in welcoming john malcolm. john. [applause] john: thank you, everyone. and welcome to heritage. we are here today to discuss an important topic, which is the role the congressional oversight plays in our system of checks and balances and separation of powers. our founding fathers understand -- understood the need for each branch of the government to be on guard on the increases of power from the other two branches of government. as james madison said, if men were angels, no government would be necessary. but since madison well knew that men were not angels and never would be, he added, ambition must be made to counteract
ambition, and vigorous congressional oversight is one of the keys to making sure that that happens. after all, if congress is going to pass laws and appropriate funds in order to run the government, congress and the people whom they represent have a right to know how those laws are being implemented and whether those funds are being well spent. on the other hand, the executive branch does focus on a number of sensitive issues, including ongoing criminal investigations that ought to remain free from political influence. it is also important that executive branch officials feel free to be open and candid in their views even when they're unpopular without an undue fear of public disclosure that might be personally embarrassing. as the supreme court stated in the seminal case united states rooted under it is
the powers in the constitution. there's been a concern learning -- as far as how far congress should go and exploring the interworkings of the judicial executive branch and perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, judicial branch. here to offer his perspective is one of the senate's champions of robust oversight, senator chuck grassley from iowa. senator grassley has had a long and distinguished career. he received his bachelor's degree and master's degree from the university of northern iowa and a phd from the university of iowa. he was first elected to the iowa legislature in 1958 and to the u.s. house of representatives in 1974. since 1981, he has served the citizens of iowa and indeed the rest of the nation as a united states senator. senator grassley has long been considered a champion of government oversight and transparency, and has often been sainted to as the patron
of whistleblowers. belief in the need for robust oversight has been on full display. please join me in welcoming senator chuck grassley. [applause] sen. grassley: thank you for a kindly introduction. if i can make just one little correction, because i don't want to be misleading here. i was elected to the legislature while i was in the middle of the on.crusade i was i'm one of those people that almost -- it's a privilege to be here with you. in 1980, that's before most of you were born, i was elected to the united states senate, and during my early years in the united states senate, i met a man who had a significant impact on my career.
his name was arthur earnest fitzgerald. but everyone called him ernie. i call him the father of whistleblowers. this is an original that we got from the library of congress and then we blew it up. but this is ernie fitzgerald. this is the famous $700 toilet seat that was really representative of defense waste 1980's when i really got involved in oversight and whistle blowing. he was called ernie. you probably never heard of him. if you did, ernie's reputation preceded him even way back before i knew him. in 1968, ernie testified before senator william proxmire's committee about the air force c-5 aircraft program. that testimony changed ernie's
life and brought a lot of attention to whistleblowers. the c-5 aircraft was an important military priority. but it took longer and cost mo than planned. the government did not want anybody to know that. although he knew it might damage his career, ernie testified before congress that this prized program cost the taxpayers $2 billion more than the pentagon would admit. $2 billion. that was 1968. in today's dollars, that would be more than $14.5 billion. ernie's audacity to commit truth earned him the absolute fury of the president of the united states. the famous nixon tapes revealed that the president himself and -- ordered his subordinates in the white house to get rid of that s.o.b.
that's a direct quote from the tapes. they did. and ernie spent the next 14 years fighting for his professional life. in fact, he only had his job at the pentagon until he retired because of a court order. time and again, mr. fitzgerald resisted the pentagon's never-ending effort to sideline him and end his career. from the fight that they put up, you would have thought that the defense department was facing down a mortal enemy, whatever we ask ernie to come to the capitol hill. i had to go to the pentagon once myself in 19858 to serve him a to serve him a subpoena just so that he could testify before my subcommittee. ernie's work and life have greatly inspired this senator. his entire time in government, ernie relentlessly pursued the
facts and courageously told the truth. when he retired, i said that of him. ernie's work was about keeping faith with the taxpayers. that's what oversight is all about. keeping faith. keeping faith with the taxpayers, keeping faith with we the people. it means working as hard as you can to give people confidence that their government is rules or plays by the is held accountable. just in the last two weeks, my committee has pulled out all the stops to shine a light on waste and misconduct in the other branches. last week, we looked at the department of justice inspector general's finding of political bias and misconduct in law enforcement.
this week, before we looked -- the week before that, we took testimony from witnesses who described the failures of the judicial branch to address sexual harassment claims. we can learn a lot about what oversight is and what it means from these efforts, and there will be a lot more material to study before the summer is out, but for now, i would like to start with the basics. office,enter elective we take an oath. the oath that we take is a solemn promise to defend the constitution of the united states. that document is the source of our rule of law and the guarantee of our liberties. the constitution established separation of powers in three branches, over which the people, of course, are sovereign.
to ensure that authority remains with the people, the constitution also diffuses power between and among the branches. we call that checks and balances. in other words, as far as i'm concerned it's oversight. this structure was not by mistake. madison, as you quoted, and i will quote it a little bit differently, and other framers had long history with unchecked ambition and undivided authority. they called it george iii. they knew the natural tendency of those that had power to see k more, often at the expense of , and the, sense general welfare. so they designed the system for the same institution is never entrusted to write the law, interpret its meaning, and enforce the consequences if it is violated. and each institution has tools to check the other. by design, the system invites conflict.
of,ach branch inquires negotiates with, and grates against the others. in the words of james madison, ambition works to counteract ambition. it is this system that sustains the delicate balance between and among each branch of government, and it is that branch that the framers believed would be best secured, respect for the rule of law, and ensure accountability to the people. regretfully, today this balance has shifted. today we live under a government that the framers would not recognize. we have become a nation that is no longer governed by congressional action enforced by the president and interpreted by the courts. today, we are ruled more and
more by excessive regulation and executive fiat. worse, we have done little to prevent our system of separated powers from yielding itself to the sweeping authority of federal agencies and what many call, and rightfully so, the administrative state. we cannot blame political ideology. under democrats or republicans, the administrative state has only expanded and is growing at the expense of congressional authority and prestige. we have sacrificed our constitutional mandate on the twin altars of efficiency and expertise. we moved from a government by and for the people to government by the bureaucrats and the connected insiders.
i'm afraid that we are experiencing what james madison warned about in "federalist 62," when he wrote about the dangers of churning out so many murky, burdensome rules. he warned about "the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the eyedrprising, and the mon few or the industrialists and uniform mass of the people." the modern administrative state is a good deal for congress, which can pass deals with lofty goals and take credit while agencies sort out the details that congress doesn't want to deal with our doesn't know how to deal with. it also is a good deal for special interests and well-connected corporations who can afford to sort through scores of regulations published each year, an advantage the small business doesn't have, but
it's a rotten deal for the american people. it's a rotten deal for the farmers, the small business owners, and and job creators across the country who are burdened by piles of regulations and left wondering where to turn to for the relief. theider these statistics, 114th congress, 329 bills became law, but during the same time, the obama administration finalized more than twice as many rules and regulations, and that doesn't count guidance, documents or other forms of agency action, some of which have the same impact as regulation. not intended to, but seemed to.
by some estimates, regulation placed a great weight of the economy of nearly $2 trillion in compliance costs. unfortunately, we in the congress enabled this. we authorized enormous, intrusive government programs and give agencies the money and the staff to run them. it's no wonder there are more than 180,000 pages of administrative regulations. i'm glad that president trump has taken -- made cutting the regulatory burden one of his top priorities, but lasting reform is going to require some significant structural changes. think about this, more than 2 million people work for the federal government. that does not even include contractors and active duty military personnel. according to a 2015 study, the actual size of the government workforce is estimated at more than 9 million. and remember what i said about the tendency of those with power to seek more power.
that seems to be the primary purpose of a non-elected bureaucrat. these folks fight tooth and nail to safeguard their pet programs, even when the programs don't work. i've seen evidence of agency leaders ordering subordinates to spend money that they don't need, just so they can justify having it in the first place. clearly congress needs to exercise more scrutiny over taxpayers' money, not less. part of the problem is that we are not passing individual appropriation bills on schedule like congress used to. in fact, we have only met the deadline set in the congressional budget office four times since that law was passed in 1974. instead, we pass on the must omnibus bills that
scure critical issues and make it difficult to cut the fat. wasteful programs and projects just come right along, sucking up viable taxpayer dollars in providing little value in return. despite all of this, you might still wonder if giving the agencies more leeway is such a bad thing. what is the real harm in a few paddock programs? but government bloat is not a victimless crime. the more we tip the constitutional scale, the less accountable government will be to the people who are sovereign. this gradual surrender of authority to executive piles on to the logistical challenges that congress always faces. as i noted earlier, millions of people work in the executive branch. two of them are elected by the people, and there are often many layers of folks between the elected executives and the unelected bureaucrats making the
critical decisions. this means there is a lot of distance between the everyday decision-makers and the ultimate source of authority, again, the american people. by contrast, legislators in congress are directly accountable to the people. we receive their feedback during elections and every day by e-mail, by phone, and in person. but for 535 elected members of congress, there are only about 16,000 supporting staff. that means that we have less than 17,000 people to counteract the ambitions of more than 2 million in the executive branch. and this is not an argument for hiring more congressional employees. we have to work very hard to craft smart legislation and even harder to reach consensus. meanwhile, unelected bureaucrats can make decisions that
contradict and ignore the clear and hard-won intent of the congress. that can happen through the regulatory process, or just because some agency lawyer said so. for example, the government accountability office found that president obama's epa engaged in unlawful, covert propaganda, and those words come from the report, through its aggressive use of social media to drum up support for the waters of u.s. rule. in fact, epa actions violated clear prohibitions that congress had put in place. in 2015, the office of legal counsel single-handedly overturned a critical provision in the inspector general's act. it said that congress did not mean what it said in that act, that inspectors generals should have access to all the records
they need to do their job. so congress had to pass another law to say what we meant when we passed that law in the first place. the law i am referring to, last congress, the inspector general empowerment act clarified that the inspectors general should have access to all records, notwithstanding any other law. so how do we hold these bureaucrats accountable to the rule of law and then to the sovereignty of the american people? how do we keep the constitutional scale from tipping too far? the answer is quite obvious, oversight. congress doing its constitutional job to see that the executive branch faithfully executes the laws. article one of the constitution, all legislative power in a sts allest -- ve
legislative power in a congress he unid states. the congress's power to conduct investigations is inherent with this grant of legislative power. the supreme court has long recognized this. in mcgrane versus darter he, it wrote that "a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to effect or change. " for these reasons, the supreme court has also recognize that congress's power of inquiry is very broad and fully enforceable. the court also noted that "mere requests for information often are unavailing, so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain what is needed." the court has even ruled that congress can require testimony even when it may be relevant to another proceeding. like even a court case.
oversight is not just the responsibility of committees or their chairman, although their leadership and expertise is very important. oversight is the responsibility of each and every member of congress. whether it is majority or minority, each member is a constitutional officer. he or she was elected to represent and cast votes in the interest of their constituents. each member needs accurate information from the executive branch in order to make informed decisions of all sorts. i tell every new member of the senate that i talked to, i said, remember it takes 51 votes, sometimes 60 votes around here to pass a bill. it only takes one vote to do oversight. so you don't have to ask anybody else's permission to do it. oversight takes many forms. individual members or committees
can send letters, request hearings, request briefings and hold hearings. they might request documents or interviews. most of the time, recipients comply with the congressional oversight request voluntarily. usually the member or committee is willing to discuss or negotiate the scope of the request and reach an accommodation with the agency. in fact, that's the way that members and committees prefer to work. no matter what the media says, the goal is to get the information, not put on a show. whoourse every nominee comes into my office says they will answer my oversight request in a timely fashion. but then they get confirmed, and they must get amnesia, because all too often, i don't hear back from them as quickly as i should. sometimes i don't hear back at all. them now i'd advise
before the committee, to just be more honest and instead of saying yes, say maybe. when a witness does not comply, we have subpoenas, of course. and of course, it's easier if the democrats recognize when those were necessary, at least that's my experience in the recent days. in any case, a committee often issues a subpoena only after it has attempted to get the information voluntarily, and those efforts have failed. i think you see this in the house of representatives with the justice department right now. i think we are seeing that play out as that example i just gave you. i've seen it before too during the fast and furious investigation. the executive branch stalled and hid behind bogus, fake, privileged claims that had nothing to do with presidential communications, yet they declare presidential privilege.
eventually, a court ordered them to turn over documents to the house committee. they admitted that thousands of pages of withheld documents were never privileged at all. in our investigation of political interference in the 2016 election, the agencies resisted providing some information because they claimed it threatened national security. much of that information is now declassified, and it demonstrates those concerns were merely hot air. unfortunately, the executive branch does not always respect even a congressional subpoena. you hear that a little bit now in the house of representatives. the documents it withheld during -- withheld from congress during fast and furious were not subject to subpoena. the efforts to enforce it took seven years.
failure to provide the documents led the house to hold the former attorney general in contempt and take him to court, but it wasn't until this year when president obama and his team had left office that additional documents were finally provided. it is clear that congress cannot blindly trust the executive branch to make and enforce rules or to comply with the request for information. and it also cannot depend on the judicial branch to give full effect to its oversight authority. it takes too long, and the courts don't always get it right. the legislative branch then must step up to the plate and reassert its constitutional authority. we need a package of rules that changes thatative draw on congress's on strength. we need to change the default from one of dodge and delay to democratic accountability. i've been working with my colleagues on proposals to carry
out some of these ideas. meanwhile, as congress seeks help from the other ranges to do -- branches to do its job, whistleblowers are working hard to hold the government accountable. it is our job to protect and empower whistleblowers. you know, once again referring to ernie fitzgerald, who was not the first whistleblower. blowing the whistle on misconduct and working to protect those who do it is older than our republic. in 1777, 10 brave soldiers warshiphe worship -- warren were slapped with a criminal libel suit. on july 30, 1778, the continental congress shut down those shenanigans launched -- that lawsuit against him. it made clear that it was the
duty of citizens "in service to the united states to give the earliest information to congress of any misconduct, fraud, or misdemeanors." so whistleblowing is a time-honored tradition in this country. it is deeply patriotic and thoroughly american. the framers knew that to hold onto their democracy, they would need not just a well-informed structure, but also a virtuous citizenry. that's where the whistleblowers come in, they keep the government honest. if we want to have the kind of government the framers envisioned, they must be protected. whistleblowers have to be able to share their message according to law, to the right people, in a way that keeps them and the rest of us safe. that means that we have to be able to report outside their agency, and if necessary, to the
congress, without fear of -- or reprisal. there is still a lot of room for improvement in the whistleblower protection laws, although we have made much progress since i joined the congress. the better protections they had, ve, the more likely whistleblowers will come forward. believe me, we cannot do our congressional duty of oversight without good whistleblowing. the good news is that there are more folks like ernie fitzgerald out there. these whistleblowers know what is really behind the agency talking points. they can tell you when congress to, or getting part of the story only. they know where to find waste, fraud, and abuse, and these brave men and women are risking their reputations and their careers every day to do what the ernie fitzgerald said
whistleblowers do is commit truth. that's what whistleblowers are doing, just committing truth but ruining themselves maybe professionally for doing it. but in the process, holding the government accountable. by entrusting these truth tellers to expose wrongdoing and corruption, we can bring transparency and accountability to our institutions. by working with them to conduct rigorous oversight, we can restore the public trust in our government. the whistleblowers are keeping faith with the taxpayers. ask them the question must be asked, are we keeping that faith? [no audio] [applause] >> the senator hassan for a few
questions. to wait for your microphone to arrive. please keep it short. >> thank you, senator. i am from common cause. to the speak investigation into scott pruitt's tenure at the epa? thank you. this is more a policy issue than it is oversight. here is what i've said personally. other people have taken some strong positions. me about this, almost daily ask me about it, that i'm going to wait until these people get done
. that would be if they come up very negatively serious case, i guess as you said there's about 13, i would not say that we have to find something wrong in all 13 cases before a would say he should go, but right now, my problem with him is not carrying out a promise that the president may on alternative energy. >> said weisberg, a citizen from houston, texas. i appreciate what you are saying about oversight, and you said that the feet dragging by the administration has grown over your illustrious career. and now i know you're working iny hard even to get people the administrative state to give you information and they are withholding it. how with the chevron difference
make a difference? the tide of power is slipping away from congress. sen. grassley: i'm glad to know that the recent couple of court decisions, even the supreme court has indicated that they ought to take another look at chevron. i am co-author of a bill with senator hatch to do away with chevron, in other words, not give as much deference to administrative expertise as the courts would give. i don't know whether it was ever ridinged in the case of the various pieces of regulatory legislation that the courts now defer to. i think it is kind of a case of the supreme court legislating, and that is why unless they overruled themselves and we had checks and balances of changing
the law. you probably know that for progresses in this town and in the congress, is going to be difficult to get bipartisan support to do that. >> what are your plans for irs oversight, now that the tax reform bill has passed and you are going to have a new, possibly new commissioner coming in. sen. grassley: i think the answer to your question would have nothing to do with the tax bill except as the tax bill changes policy, and are they following our policy. that's part of the oversight. i think you get more problems way irsrsight with the asked toward certain taxpayers, particularly small business versus major corporations.
going back to 1998 when i served on the study committee that rewrote some of these laws, and i think did some good for a certain time. i think we are back to the point where the intimidation of virus toward small business is getting worse. it can be done through oversight, but there is also very much need for some legislation that's introduced and i think maybe legislation that has even passed the house, i don't know for sure if it it's very house, but top on the agenda of the ways and means committee and finance committee, and if we get other tax bills, we will probably include some taxpayer bill of rights provisions, and by the way, you know, you do this a little bit at a time. so i think we had some taxpayer bill of rights provisions in the tax bill we passed before christmas.
of overreaching the agencies, do you think congress should make more robust usage of the -- sen. grassley: absolutely, and we are now. prior to this administration, it was only used once. it may have been attempted to her three other times, but never successfully. it has been successful i think 16 times this year. i think a better thing would be if the acronym -- i cannot think of it. here's how it works. i just can't think of the name of the bill. anyway, we need to write legislation so that any major rule, and a major rule evidently is anything that costs the economy more than $100 million a year. pass this, so any were like that would have to be submitted to congress, and we would have to pass it for it to
go into effect. this would be particularly very helpful particularly where congress might not have expertise to make final decisions and you do leave a lot to the bureaucracy, like let's say on scientific or health issues or something like that. then we could look at it when it comes back and we would have the final say on it. then when we are chastised by our constituents for passing bad law that brings even worse bad regulation, at least we would have the final say on whether that meets our intent. so i'm very much in favor of the reins act. >> thank you, senator. i'm a reporter from hong kong tv. what is your view on the president saying he has the power to pardon himself? sen. grassley:
sen. grassley: you mad may have heard me quoted in the paper to this effect. if i was president and somebody said i could party myself, i would get a new lawyer. nobody in this country is above the law. it seems to me that this question was answered when nixon was president. you will get tired of me saying i am not a lawyer, but that is what common sense tells me. there's a question. piece.tor, leon with respect to the opportunity for tax legislation this year in this political climate, do you think there is a remote possibility of something like technical corrections or anything like that? sen. grassley: i hope so. every massive piece of
legislation, particularly tax. if it is really noncontroversial, i think we have a chance of getting it passed. if it is mixed up with some change of policy. when you get into the latter, democrats in the senate will that they were not involved in the passage of our bill so they may not want to help with corrections. but i think if things are very obvious, they would be not meeting their professional responsibilities if they did not consider some change. i think you will find at least technical corrections out of the ways and means committee, maybe even before the election, maybe something dealing with extenders out of ways and means. i don't know whether they can come to the senate or not and probably not before the election. >> let me ask another question -- i'm sorry, there was a hand up over here. >> hi, i am a summer intern at
the ftc from pennsylvania. my question is, how much faith do you have in president trump's promise to relocate some power back to congress and to drain the swamp, so to speak? sen. grassley: let me ask you this. i don't know that -- i think the president is doing what he can do on his own under existing law , trying to drain the swamp through maybe just one example -- for every new regulation, he got repealed two, maybe a couple thousand already. i don't know that he has made any suggestions to us that we ought to change law in regard to draining the swamp, unless you can tell me of something. >> no. >> my question is, it seems with all these investigations, that you mail server, russia investigation, an awful lot of on the shoulder of
the department of justice inspector general, michael horwitz. there are hearings in the house and senate. you just had an oversight hearing. how in your opinion is this process working? sen. grassley: a kind of works according to who is inspector general. we have some very good inspector general's and some inspector general's not doing their job and some that are even worse when they are intimidated by the people above them, because the inspector general is supposed to be very independent. in the case of horwitz, even though he was appointed by obama, i have great confidence in him and i think he proved that last week when he delivered an 18 month study he had. he is going to do further studies. who knows when they will come out and we don't want to say they have to be out on a certain day because we want them to be done right. in his case, i can say i have great confidence in him and it is very successful. >> is the committee operating in
a bipartisan fashion? sen. grassley: you mean my committee? >> yes, your committee or the house committee, based on your observations. sen. grassley: our committee, at least on legislation, is working in a bipartisan way. from the standpoint of the last congress, 31 bills got out of our committee, all bipartisan. in the last 18 months, i don't know how many bills, but every bill has overwhelming bipartisan. 18 of them got to a democratic president. we have had a few signed by this president. everyone bipartisan legislation. in myt comes to -- committee, you have to have both the republican and democrat agree to a subpoena. sometimes we have agreed to a subpoena and sometimes we have not agreed. but we always exchange letters. senator feinstein and her group
want to certain things investigated. if we agree, we sign on, and then we do the same thing there. so we have an exchange of investigatory goals that we have. i mean, the process is very bipartisan. the outcome may go our separate ways sometimes, but more often together. >> do you have time for one more or got to go? you get the last question. >> thank you very much. sen. grassley: is this clock right? >> yes. >> terry miller with the heritage foundation. one of the areas where congress has delegated regulatory power to the administration is the area of trade. would you support some of the measures by some of your colleagues, like senator corker, oomey,r lee, senator t took hold back some trade power that is currently with the president over things like new tariffs?
the answer, tostarwith, is no,s more positive as i go along. [laughter] 232 national: on security, no. on 301, yes. i look at think presidential use with this authority. not too many presidents have done it, but i remember carter and reagan and george w. have used some tariffs. i use them as an example. we always found out that agriculture was the first to be retaliated against. looking at it not just because of president trump but because of great people, i have come to the conclusion we need a wholesale look at the 1963 kennedy bill and 1974 nixon were see bill, to go back and
how much power should be delegated. but i think without a doubt, should -- more curbs be put on that delegation. >> please join me in thanking the senator. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact deal.
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