Democrats Planning Watchdog Role Senators’ Hearings Will Scrutinize Administration Policies

Posted By: March 29, 2013

By Helen Dewar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; Page A10

Senate Democrats announced plans yesterday for wide-ranging
hearings to examine Bush administration policies and conduct,
saying the Republicans who control both houses of Congress have
abdicated responsibility for oversight of the GOP administration.

“The congressional watchdog remains fast asleep, and we intend to
wake him up,” said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.), who announced the
party’s plan at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, which
will sponsor the hearings, said they will begin in January, with
the subject of the first couple of sessions to be announced later
this month.

Republicans will be invited, and the Democrats will not conduct
hearings on a particular subject if a GOP-controlled committee
decides to do so, said Dorgan and incoming Senate Minority Leader
Harry M. Reid (Nev.), who joined Dorgan by satellite from Las

Dorgan and Reid listed possible targets for the hearings, including
contract abuses in Iraq, the administration’s use of prewar
intelligence, misleading cost estimates for the Medicare drug
benefit, the cost of the administration’s plan for private Social
Security accounts, the implementation of the No Child Left Behind
education bill and administration policies on global warming.

Holding up a large photograph of President Harry S. Truman, Dorgan
said Truman as a Democratic senator conducted hearings on defense
contract abuses by a Democratic administration; Dorgan suggested
that Iraq contracts would be a major focus of the new hearings.

The hearings are part of a broader effort by Senate Democrats to
strengthen their message and create mechanisms for getting it out
after their four-seat loss in the November elections. They have
announced a beefed-up communications operation, including a “war
room” for rapid response to the administration and to the Senate
Republican majority.

But Democrats will have no subpoena powers to compel the testimony
of witnesses and release of documents, which can be issued by
regular Senate committees. Dorgan said he expected there are

“plenty of whistle-blowers” who will be eager for a forum, and Reid
noted that Senate committees rarely have to resort to subpoenas.

Dorgan denied that Democrats were pursuing a partisan agenda in
scheduling the hearings, although it was clear they were trying to
raise the profile of their case against the Republicans on a
variety of sensitive political issues.

“This is not about gotcha politics. . . . This is about oversight,”
Dorgan said. “If the majority party won’t do it, we will.” There
was no immediate response from GOP leaders.

Reid said he thought the Foreign Relations Committee was doing a
“pretty good job” on oversight, and he expected the newly expanded
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to perform
well. But, with Republicans in control of the executive and
legislative branches of government, most other panels have
virtually given up on investigations and oversight, Dorgan and Reid

By contrast, Dorgan said the GOP-controlled Congress conducted
numerous hearings on activities of President Bill Clinton’s

Dorgan said he expects that 12 to 15 Democrats will form a
Committee on Oversight and Investigations, which will conduct the