USA Today had a good item about Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As the article explained, Waxman wields the gavel very effectively, using the committee’s oversight powers as a successful watchdog should.
And then there’s Waxman’s Senate counterpart: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the same committee, who apparently doesn’t care about doing his job at all. Subscription-only Roll Call had this depressing report today:
Though the two committees have similar investigative powers and mandates to uncover waste, fraud and abuse of government funds, Waxman has held eight hearings on Iraq and contracting abuses this year, while Lieberman has held only one on reconstruction challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
And though Waxman rarely has missed an opportunity to fire off angry letters to the administration over potential waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct among government contractors, Lieberman — along with his predecessor and current ranking member, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — has shown relatively little interest in tackling those issues.
And what of all the contracting abuses that Waxman is scrutinizing? Lieberman said he gets “angry when I hear about fraud or corruption in the spending of American dollars,” but it’s not one of his “priorities.”
A year ago, seeking re-election, Lieberman said this committee was his top priority, and he was desperate to return to the Senate so he could wield the gavel. And now that he has the authority he sought, he’s decided not to conduct any real oversight of the administration at all.
He seems to have desperately sought a chairman’s gavel just for the sake of having it — Lieberman wanted power he had no intention of using. Instead of a Senate Committee on Government Affairs that functions as it should, Lieberman just treads water, using his gavel as a flotation device. It’s an embarrassing waste.