"Congress doesn't stand up for itself"

  • 19 June 2017
  • NormanL
"Congress doesn't stand up for itself"

House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chafetz is resigning his seat in Congress, and returning to the private sector. In this interview, he offers some hard words for the institutions of government, and the people who lead them. In this snippet, Chaffetz talks about why IRS commissioner John Koskinen is still on the job, despite his many glaring problems:

Sharyl: Republicans were very upset in the last few years over the IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, who they said allowed destruction of documents and investigations and other things. This committee, I believe, even called for him to be impeached. He's still IRS Commissioner even though Republicans are now in charge of pretty much everything. Why is that?

Jason Chaffetz: Now look, you have more than 50 Republicans pleading with President Trump to release him, um, to let him go, fire him. Uh, or at least encourage him to retire. No, he's still there. No changes. Nobody was fired. Nobody was prosecuted. Nobody was held accountable. We tried to issue subpoenas, we tried to hold people in contempt and the Obama Administration said, no, and the Trump Administration came in and did zero. Nothing. Nothing changed.

Sharyl: Do Republican leaders have an appetite to do the kind of oversight that needs to be done?

Jason Chaffetz: No, no. No, I mean the reality is, there aren't very many people that want to play offense. There aren't many people who say, look, we have a duty and an obligation to fulfill the oversight responsibility that was put in place at the very founding of our country.

Sharyl: Just the way you describe it, it's troubling. Is Congress broken?

Jason Chaffetz: Congress doesn't stand up for itself. I think it's, it's really lost its way. They say, oh, we'll use the power of the purse. That doesn't work. First of all, they never do cut funding. Even getting people to come up and testify before Congress, the Obama Administration at the end of their term, they got so brazen they stopped sending people up. They just didn't care. And, and there was no way to enforce that, and until that changes, uh the legislative branch is going to get weaker and weaker.

This is not a new problem.

Congress has willingly given over much of its authority to the executive branch in the last 80 years. The result is a permanent bureaucracy that is almost entirely beyond accountability, and presidency that is far more powerful -- bordering on the imperial -- than the founders could have imagined. 

It is also bipartisan. Regardless of which party hold the White House, the desire to preserve the power already acquired, and the constant need for even more, further erodes the Constitution's checks and balances.

Chaffetz isn't the first to leave Congress dismayed and disillusioned, and he will not be the last.