House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent a memo to GOP House colleagues… (Drew Angerer / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON – House Republicans will return to Washington next month continuing their efforts “at full throttle” to check the Obama administration on several fronts, a GOP leader indicated Wednesday.
As most lawmakers spend the month in their districts with few popular legislative accomplishments to cite, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is instead touting aggressive oversight efforts that he says is a fulfillment of a Republican promise to voters in 2010 to pursue “a reform agenda aimed at changing the culture in Washington.”
“Congressional oversight that exposes these abuses is the first step in ending the abuse, controlling spending, and reforming Washington. Working middle class families deserve a government that is working for them, not against them,” Cantor wrote to House Republicans Wednesday.
A memo accompanying the letter details the extent of GOP efforts to probe the administration’s activities and policymaking. This year, committees have held more than two dozen hearings on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which led to bills the House passed aimed at undercutting the president’s healthcare law. Eighty-six hearings were dedicated to excessive government spending, and 42 were held on energy issues, such as one on an issue that the memo refers to as “the administration’s war on coal.”
Cantor’s office also points to more prominent investigations into the terrorist raid on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya and allegations of inappropriate political targeting of nonprofit groups by employees of the Internal Revenue Service.
On the raid in Benghazi, Libya, the memo hails the work of five committees that “exposed significant shortcomings” in embassy security, military readiness and counter-terrorism policies, promising that “more hearings and revelations should be expected in the coming months.” On the IRS, the Republican leadership contends that the administration’s argument that the inappropriate conduct was the work of low-level employees has been shown to be false and “the scandal appears to be widening.”
The memo also lists the work of House committees on the issue of primary importance to voters -- the economy -- while mocking President Obama’s call in recent weeks to make “yet another ‘pivot’ ” to jobs. Cantor notes at the outset that various panels have held 72 hearings on jobs and the economy, and another 72 on “job-killing” regulations being enacted by the administration. “House committees had no need to pivot to these kitchen-table issues, because our focus never left them,” he writes.
The messaging document from the House’s second-ranking Republican mirrors the talking points given to the party rank-and file before the start of the recess by the House Republican Conference chair, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. Her office’s “District Work Period Planning Kit” advised members to highlight the party’s work “fighting to stop government abuse to make Washington work for all Americans.” It proposed a “Fighting Washington For You” tour, with the first of several suggested events being with groups potentially targeted by the IRS in their applications for tax-exempt status.
Both point to a reality facing Republican leaders when Congress returns to Washington next month: that their membership has yet to find agreement on the most significant legislative challenges – immigration reform and the budget. On the latter, Republican leaders must address the desire of more conservative members to insist that any government funding plan Congress takes up eliminate all money for the implementation of Obama's healthcare law.
Cantor began the year by calling for Republicans to adopt a family-friendly legislative agenda that would help the party define itself in more approachable terms after a period narrowly focused on issues of spending and debt. The House did pass several of the “Making Life Work” initiatives he called for, but few have advanced in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
In his new letter, Cantor promises that Congress will “continue to place a premium on conducting effective oversight” in the coming months. In fact, the memo lists more than 150 “open inquiries” that would continue in the fall, while noting that it is only a “partial list.”
Democrats countered that, rather than rigorous oversight, the “dysfunctional” Republican majority has been “holding useless hearings, voting on repeal bills that won’t pass and increasing partisanship and gridlock to record levels.”
“If House Republicans were listening to their constituents this August, they would understand just how frustrated the public has become. House Republicans could brag about oversight if they launched an investigation into why they’re so obsessed with protecting special interests at the expense of the middle class,” said Emily Bittner, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.