Congress has some obligation to act as a watch dog and to hold investigations, but Grassley's sole focus in the Senate seems to be investigation. His most recent demand is for hearings regarding the FBI's anthrax letter investigation. It is not that I think hearings on this topic would not be beneficial, but Grassley appears to be accomplishing little else than starting investigations. A short list of the investigations and hearings Grassley has initiated or requested in recent months include:
- Hearings on the FBI investigation into the anthrax letter
- Investigation of six televangelists finances
- Investigation of nonprofit status of hospitals
- Investigation into Stafford healthcare researchers and conflicts of interest
- Investigation into rising costs of education and use of college endowment funds
- Investigation into the method used to calculate pension payments by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
- Hearings into the use of foreign tax havens to avoid U.S. tax
- Investigation into the use of H-1B visas, abuse of this visa, and how it may disadvantage American workers
- Investigation into the GSA contract with Sun Microsystems
- Inquiry into the FBI's mismanagement of funds in undercover investigations
- Inquiry into the independence and the judgment of the NASA Inspector General
- Review of the use of idling vehicles by government officials
- Investigation into the FDA's use of the accelerated approval process for cancer drugs
This focus on investigations should not be a surprise considering comments Grassley made in 2007. He stated "I come from a philosophy of checks and balances... Congress spends too much time legislating and not enough time doing oversight." Grassley has initiated so many investigations that he is not sure how many he is currently conducting.
According to Federal Computer Week, Grassley made a determination early in his senate career "that oversight was one area in which he could make a difference, and he wouldn't need the agreement of 50 other senators." This raises the question of whether the senator is using oversight to better the country or to get his name in the press for political purposes.
I want to reiterate that I am not against Congressional oversight, but that should not be the primary job of any one elected representative. Grassley was sent to congress to produce legislation, legislation that benefits the country and Iowa without destroying our cultural and social values. Important issues need to be addressed by congress including high fuel prices, high cost of healthcare, trade imbalances, and coming disasters of Medicare and Social Security. We need a national energy policy, social security reform, health care/tort reform, and a renewal of the Bush tax cuts. Instead of addressing these issues, Grassley is more concerned with his role as a watchdog.
Mr. Grassley, you have already made a name for yourself, it is time to shift your focus towards solving our country's problems. If you want to get your name in the press, join the Republicans in the House of Representatives in their effort to have a debate with the majority party about increasing domestic oil production. Demand that Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, allow for debate on the floor of the Senate and a vote on drilling legislation.
Originally posted 08/13/2008 on Grassley Watch