House Republicans appear determined to help President Obama keep his promise to conduct the most open and transparent administration in history, even if they have to subpoena his subordinates every step of the way.
Two House panels this week are issuing the orders to force the administration to come clean on what it knew about the Solyndra bankruptcy scandal, and to disclose its list of 300,000 criminal illegal aliens it has refused to deport.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday authorized a subpoena for the immigration documents at the Homeland Security Department (DHS) that chairman Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.) has been asking for since August.
“The administration is obviously not acting in good faith, and is wrongfully trying to keep crucial information from the American people,” Smith said. “They are on the verge of obstructing the legitimate role of Congress.”
The measure passed 7 to 4 along party lines, and over Democrat objections that the subpoena was a “witch hunt.”
Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (D.-P.R.) said resorting to subpoenas would give the appearance that there is a “clash” between the committee and the administration.
“All I’m saying is, I’m concerned about sending that message. It doesn’t serve anyone’s interest [and] this committee does not look good,” Pierluisi said. But Rep. Louie Gohmert (R.-Tex.) said that it’s time the committee showed the administration they are serious about their inquiry into the enforcement of immigration laws.
“Since the answers have not been forthcoming … we need to make sure the administration knows these are serious issues to us,” Gohmert said.
“It is time to quit fooling around and do our obligation of oversight. If Congress doesn’t do oversight, it doesn’t get done,” Gohmert said. “We’re the only protection the American public has when the government is not doing its job.”
Smith said the public has a right to know what crimes the 300,000 illegal immigrants committed and why Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials “intentionally chose not to detain them.”
“Why does DHS want to hide this information? Why won’t they provide Congress with these documents? Are administration officials afraid that the information will show that illegal immigrants intentionally released by ICE have committed crimes that could have been prevented?” Smith asked.
“The administration has a decision to make: Will they be open and honest, or will they continue to hide information crucial to the health and safety of the American people?” Smith asked.
On Thursday the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee investigating Solyndra will vote on whether to subpoena the White House for Obama’s BlackBerry messages and other internal documents.
Republican Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan and Cliff Stearns of Florida said the documents they are seeking do not affect issues of national security, and there is no basis for the administration to object to their request.
“Subpoenaing the White House is a serious step that, unfortunately, appears necessary in light of the Obama administration’s stonewall on Solyndra,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers subpoenaed documents relating to the National Labor Relations Board decision on the South Carolina Boeing plant, and Attorney General Eric Holder has also been subpoenaed to appear before Congress in the coming weeks to answer questions about the Operation Fast and Furious debacle that left one Border Patrol agent dead.
Obama’s campaign promise to hold government accountable by making his administration transparent has faltered to the point of absurdity, critics say.
Privacy advocates were miffed when Obama accepted their award earlier this year for his efforts in making government more transparent in a most untransparent manner—behind closed doors.
Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, told the Huffington Post that Obama’s decision to bar the public and press from the ceremony was “the height of irony.”
“How absurd can that be?” Bass said.
When the White House agreed to release its visitor logs, privacy advocates cheered, until it was discovered that top administration officials were meeting with lobbyists at a nearby coffee shop to avoid their registration in the logs.
Just last month, the Homeland Security Department raised eyebrows when it refused a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Federal Times to make public the phone numbers of its public affairs staff.
And last week it was revealed that the Justice Department is pursuing new regulations that would allow it to deny that documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act even exist.