Thankfully, this election is almost over. But don’t get too comfortable. Important decisions on the future of America will happen right after Nov. 6.
Recent reports from Capitol Hill and the media indicate that Congress will have some serious oversight responsibilities in the emerging scandals of Benghazi-Gate and Solyndra-Gate immediately after the elections. Furthermore, Congress has scheduled a lame-duck post-election session to deal with pending legislative matters.
No matter who wins the presidential election and congressional races, the post-election session of Congress will be dangerous for voters who favor small government.
Fox News reported this past week that “the U.S. Mission in Benghazi convened an ’emergency meeting’ less than a month before the assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, because al Qaida had training camps in Benghazi and the consulate could not defend against a ‘coordinated attack.’” Expect the information in this report to spur further oversight hearings.
Jim Carafano, a Heritage Foundation expert on defense and homeland security: “Why was the cable kept secret for so long?” He argues that “even if the senior officials did not see this cable before the attack, it is impossible to believe that they would not have been able to track it down within hours after the attack. The attack occurred well over a month ago. It is difficult to believe that at least the main points could not have been made public without jeopardizing operational security or the ongoing investigation in the aftermath of the attack. There is no reasonable reason to keep this information from the public.” The president has yet to provide an appropriate answer to this question.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) wrote a Washington Times op-ed on this, noting “nearly two months after the murder of four American citizens in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, there remain many more questions surrounding this tragedy than credible answers provided by the Obama administration. The American people want to know what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, and they deserve to hear an explanation directly from the president.” Expect these senators to lead the charge for oversight hearings after the election.
The Obama administration is slow-walking an investigation by setting up a so-called “Independent Accountability Review Board” to look at information and release a report well after the elections. It would be more appropriate for the president to address the nation and put all these issues to bed — sooner rather than later.
Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reports that the “House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans released documents Wednesday that they said suggests intimate White House involvement in decisions about Energy Department loan guarantees, contrary to previous administration assertions.” The report cites 150 Energy Department emails collected as part of the Solyndra investigation. Solyndra is the solar panel company that went belly up after receiving $535 million in loan guarantees as part of the Obama stimulus plan.
Lachlan Markay, a reporter for The Heritage Foundation, reported another green energy scandal: “A politically connected renewable energy company has received the go-ahead from the Interior Department to produce wind energy off the coast of Delaware, despite doubts that the project in question will actually materialize.” The company, NRG Energy, received a sweetheart lease from the Department of Interior off the coast of Delaware for a wind energy project that may never get private financing. But company executives have some notable political connections, and visited the West Wing to talk shop with top White House officials.
When the federal government gets involved in crony capitalism, it is important for Congress to make sure that government officials are not merely enriching campaign donors in the name of green energy programs.
“U.S. Treasury officials say they still expect the government will hit the current debt borrowing limit at the end of this year,” the AP reports. Congress is readying plans for a post-election lame-duck session to deal with expiring tax provisions, automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs, and federal response to Hurricane Sandy. Now add a possible hike to the debt limit into the mix.
The federal government has a serious spending problem. Nobody predicts that a lame-duck Congress will adequately deal with exploding entitlement spending and a full extension of all the 2001/2003 tax relief. It’s more likely that a bad tax deal, a debt-limit hike, and a suspension of all or parts of the scheduled cuts to 2013 spending will be forced through the House and Senate in one big messy package after the elections.
Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).