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Holding the Government Accountable

Must-Read: “What Congress Is Actually Good at” (The Atlantic)

A great piece in The Atlantic today by Michelle Cottle ("What Congress Is Actually Good at") makes the case that, "while some of Congress's flashier oversight crusades reek of politics," there are a host of "not-so-sexy" investigations by lawmakers who are actually trying to improve government.

The full article is worth a read. Here's an excerpt featuring POGO's Danielle Brian:

"No doubt there have been some abuses by some committees," said Danielle Brian, head of the independent watchdog group the Project On Government Oversight (more adorably known as POGO). "But it's unfair to paint them with a broad brush."

...Brian stressed that the bulk of congress's oversight work isn't so incendiary and tends to take place away from the cameras. "There are ongoing investigations that are in many cases bipartisan and are very constructive. They are just a little bit too boring for the public to be aware that they're happening."

Brian offers up several prime examples. "There was a great bipartisan, bicameral effort in getting a FOIA reform bill passed. And that was not easy." (Obama signed the bill in June.) "There has been great work in both the House and the Senate into the failures of the VA, resulting in informed legislation about how to change the way the VA operates." The House Energy and Commerce Committee has been conducting an inquiry into opioid addiction "that is totally bipartisan and hasn’t gotten enough attention." The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee held "great hearings on whistleblowers and on Iraq and Afghanistan contracting," while Chaffetz's Oversight committee has been looking at "reprisals against military whistleblowers." And in the last congress, "Senators Levin and Coburn did great work on offshore banks and credit card company abuses."

These probes take place with a clear focus on fixing government, said Brian.