If one thing is clear, it is that, with the House of Representatives under Republican control, the oversight of the Obama administration's activities is going to be a lot more vigorous than it has been over the last two years.
It's not just the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, under the chairmanship of California Republican Darrell Issa that's going to be busy. All of the congressional authorizing committees will probably take a much longer, much harder look at what Obama and his cohorts have been doing, both in terms of legislating and through regulation, over the past two years and what they have planned for the future. [See who donates the most money to Issa.]
That said, there are a few names that people should get used to hearing a lot.
One of them is Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who has a lot to answer for about the way her department developed the cost estimates for Obamacare and the timeliness with which they released them. Also, there is still the little matter of the way the health insurance companies were dealt with during the early days of the process, something that is still the subject of several Freedom of Information Act requests.
Another is Donald Berwick, whom President Obama "recess appointed" to the post of head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Described as "a leading proponent of rationing of medical care in the United States," the conservative Heritage Foundation's Brian Darling wrote in a column earlier this year, "Regarding end-of-life care, (Berwick) told the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2002 that ‘most people who have serious pain do not need advanced methods, they just need the morphine and counseling that have been available for centuries.'"
Berwick has also commented favorably about Britain's National Health Care system, calling it "one of the greatest health care institutions in human history," while reportedly favoring a single-payer system for the United States.
Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which, according to some reports, has seen its budget increase dramatically over the last two years, is another official who can expect to spend some time being grilled by Congress.
As the website FrontPageMagazine.com recently reminded everyone, "When the Obama administration was unsuccessfully trying to push the ‘cap and trade' bill through Congress, the president and his Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson repeatedly warned policymakers that if the bill didn't pass, they would regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act anyway."
There are those who are concerned this is exactly what EPA intends to do, implementing it through a system of complex and costly regulations that could cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
Then there are some names you've never heard of who run obscure but still powerful federal agencies. One who has been getting a lot of attention lately is J. Dudley Butler who, The Daily Caller reported earlier this month, used to be "a trial lawyer in Mississippi who spent a good chunk of his time suing poultry processors."
Now working in Agriculture Department as administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration he is, as the Caller put it "in charge of writing the rules under which he will operate when he returns to the private sector," assuming he returns to his previous profession when he leaves government.
Even the liberals are up in arms about this one. CREW—the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington—put out a statement blasting Butler as symptomatic of what is wrong with Washington, even under Obama's supposedly tougher ethics rules.
"When he took office, President Obama issued an order closing the revolving door that allowed departing executive branch officials to cash in on their government service," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. "While the new policy was aimed at those who lobby after leaving office, the same rationale applies here. Mr. Butler stands to benefit financially once he leaves the government by exploiting a loophole he helped create. Whether or not this meets the legal standard of a conflict of interest, it seems wrong."
CREW wants the Agriculture Department to "bar" Butler from "continued work on these regulations and to consider reissuing them for public comment." Congress will most assuredly have some questions for him as well.
There are still others who will have to spend some time answering tough questions from a Republican-led House on issues that are still very much on the public's mind. The Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Homeland Security probably wants to spend some time with Attorney General Eric Holder revisiting the decision to hold civilian trials for suspected terrorists in New York City. The Committee on Financial Services will probably want to talk to a number of current and former officials of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about the sub-prime lending crisis that led to the current economic downturn since there seems to be a broad consensus that we still don't really know what happened and why. And that's just for starters.
All in all it's going to be a busy two years for quite a few people.
- Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Obama.
- Follow the money in Congress.
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