A former spokesperson and senior adviser for the House Oversight and Reform Committee says that, unlike when he was involved with the committee, Republicans no longer care about keeping the president in check. The former adviser, Kurt Bardella, worked with the committee from 2009 to 2013 and detailed his thinking in an op-ed piece written for The Atlantic and published last week.
Bardella in his op-ed details how oversight has shifted and evolved over the years, culminating in what he describes as essentially an abdication of responsibility when it comes to President Donald Trump. Of particularly stark contrast, in his characterization, is the difference in treatment that Republicans have given to former President Barack Obama as compared to their handling of Trump.
"Trump's defiance of Congress is outrageous and dangerous," he wrote.
"It also exposes Republicans' hypocrisy. There is a world of difference between how Republicans viewed oversight when Barack Obama was president and their support of Trump's obstruction. I know, because for five years I worked for Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee."In his analysis, Bardella goes back to a 1957 Supreme Court ruling in which Chief Justice Earl Warren describes broad powers of Congress to perform investigations as a central part of the legislative process. Warren's words, Bardella, says, were often quoted by Republican committee members in justification of their desired "vigorous supervision" of the Obama administration. During the Obama administration, Republicans issued more than 100 subpoenas, formed a select committee to investigate then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and challenged Obama's use of executive privilege through a federal lawsuit. They also held Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, in contempt of Congress.
Today, however, Republicans are apparently much less eager to engage in such scrutiny of the executive branch.
"We wouldn't have let Obama get away with this," Bardella writes.
He argues, nonetheless, that the question is much broader and more consequential than any single investigation or subpoena. Instead, he characterizes congressional wrestling with such issues as a battle to maintain the very fabric of American government, which was built around the concept of separate but equal branches of government as a protection against the threat of a consolidation of power in any one branch.
"This fight is bigger than one hearing or one investigation or one subpoena. It is a struggle to preserve the foundation of our republic. Republicans won't rise to the challenge," Bardella writes, "Which means it's up to Democrats to keep Trump in check, and to support the Constitution. They have to learn to confront Trump as aggressively as we confronted Obama."