Upton, Shimkus on Oversight of EPA, Browner, ‘Czars’

Byron York examines the plans by House Republicans to use their newly acquired committee chairmanships to hold Executive Branch agencies accountable, in particular Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. The House Energy and Commerce Committee — now headed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) — is the key player in this oversight, York writes in “GOP watchdogs promise fight over EPA, Obamcare..”

Two of the three Republican House members seeking the chairmanship appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show this week, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan and Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois. The third is Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who as ranking member on the committee has already reached the Republicans’ self-imposed three-term limit for the leadership position; Barton is seeking a waiver.

Hewitt asked both Upton and Shimkus about oversight, not just of the EPA but also the White House advisor, Carol Browner, and “regulatory czars” — powerful officials appointed by the President but not confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Upton:

HH: Now if you are chairman, Fred Upton, will you subpoena, and this is an interesting Constitutional issues, will you support subpoenaing Carol Browner and the other czars for oversight purposes?

FU: You bet. Absolutely. Who are they accountable to otherwise? I mean, they didn’t have any type of Senate…I mean, you used to work in the White House. I actually think, Hugh, that you might have been there when I was there, ’81-’85.

HH: I was. Indeed, I was in the White House Counsel’s office there with the now chief justice, and David Waller, and all that gang.

FU: Yup. Well, you know, none of these czars when through the Senate confirmation process. We want to know what they’re doing, what they’re saying.

HH: And if the President says no…

FU: …and frankly, who is funding them.

Shimkus:

HH: Do you see yourself, if you were the chairman of Energy & Commerce, subpoenaing Carol Browner to come up and testify, since she’s covered by the White House, sort of. But it’s a new approach to keeping appointees away from Congress. What’s your view of the oversight responsibilities vis-à-vis the czars?

JS: Well, I think the real debate of how we deal with the czars is we defund the czars. I mean, I think that’s going to be an appropriation process where you say if they don’t have a Constitutional connection, we shouldn’t fund them. And these czars are, as you, they’re hard to get a hold of and figure out who they’re responsible for, you know, we fund the federal agencies. That means we’d be the administrator of the EPA, the Secretary of Energy, and those folks. But no one says we have to fund these amorphous, cross-jurisdictional czars. And I think that’s the issue. Anyway, I can tell you one thing that Administrator Jackson and Secretary Sebelius, who is spending a lot of time in front of the committee.

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