WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today continued her opposition to Russell Vought, the nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, after his repeated refusal to commit to respond to oversight requests from Congressional Democratic leaders during his nomination hearing—a break from decades of precedent.
Watch Claire’s statement to the Committee HERE.
“I will tell you—all the Republican members of this Committee—if there were ever a witness that appeared for confirmation in front of this oversight Committee and was not clear about any member’s request, I don’t care if there’s a Democrat in the White House or a Republican in the White House or if the Democrats control the Senate or if the Republicans control the Senate, I tell you right now on the record I would vote no,” McCaskill said. “This should not be a red shirt blue shirt exercise. Oversight is all of our responsibility.”
Federal agencies have historically viewed it as their obligation to respond to requests for information from Congressional leaders, regardless of party.
Vought based his decision on a recent memo issued by the White House Office of Legal Counsel saying that “Individual members of Congress, including ranking minority members, do not have the authority to conduct oversight in the absence of a specific delegation by a full house, committee, or subcommittee.” All previous recent Administrations have acknowledged the need to respond to oversight requests from the top-ranking minority member of Congressional Committees. The memo also follows reporting from multiple outlets that the Administration has told federal agencies to ignore Democratic lawmakers’ oversight requests.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa recently urged the White House Office of Legal Counsel to rescind their memo.
McCaskill has conducted aggressive oversight over Democratic and Republican administrations. McCaskill’s efforts to hold Department of Energy contractors accountable led to the Obama Administration issuing new whistleblower protection rules in 2016, and McCaskill has urged Energy Secretary Rick Perry to reinstate these whistleblower protections. Also under the Obama Administration, McCaskill joined Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to pass the bipartisan Inspector General Empowerment Act, which enhances watchdogs’ ability to conduct oversight targeting waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars at federal agencies. She repeatedly pressed the Obama Administration for answers on government misconduct, for example calling on the Obama Administration to put in place stronger oversight to protect more than $1 billion in government contracts following a report that found serious weaknesses in internal controls that made the contracts susceptible to waste, fraud, and abuse.