On Feb. 1, Rep. James Comer’s (R-KY) House Committee on Oversight and Accountability will hold its first hearing of the year. The committee’s posture and tone in this first meeting will prove consequential for the Republican cause.
With party power split among the two congressional chambers, Republican members won’t find many opportunities to legislate this year. What they will find, however, is the opportunity to change minds and policies through their investigatory powers. And for the GOP, no committee holds more keys in this important respect than Comer’s committee.
Comer knows it, which is why he promised the “most exciting committee” in congressional history on Friday. With firebrands of the likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Paul Gosar serving with Comer, and given that the Oversight Committee can hold hearings on all the made-for-TV issues, like Hunter Biden corruption and President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents, it should be easy for him to live up to this promise.
But while looking into all this political drama will prove important, Comer’s committee must also not lose sight of the fact that it also serves as the principal oversight authority of every unchecked federal bureaucracy in the country. While these watchdog issues might not be as sexy and YouTube-worthy as exposing the Democratic Party’s rampant corruption, getting to the bottom of them could put immediate political victories on the board for American taxpayers.
The committee must not lose sight of addressing these solutions-based issues and Comer knows it. That’s why he’s already pledged that “Republicans will return the oversight committee to its primary duty to root out waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in the federal government,” using “all tools at [its] disposal to identify problems and propose solutions that make the federal government more efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable to the American people.”
The first agency on Comer’s list appears to be the Office of Personnel Management — the best friend of the unaccountable federal workforce bureaucracy. And given how many headlines it has accrued as of late for wasting federal taxpayers’ hard-earned money, understandably so.
Days ago, Comer sent a letter to OPM demanding documents and a briefing from the agency over the waste of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the agency has seemingly failed to remove federal workers ineligible dependents, including divorced spouses to adult children, costing the country as much as $1 billion. Comer said that “GAO’s report suggests OPM has been aware of this problem for years but has consistently failed to address it effectively.”
That’s government neglect if anyone’s ever seen it, and Comer is right to take it on. He’s asked the agency for documents and information so that the Oversight Committee can take measures to stop this once and for all.
His leadership is coming at an opportune moment because OPM is trying to get even bigger in real-time.
Just weeks ago, Steve Krauss, a senior advisor at OPM, said the agency is taking steps to “standardize human capital functions across agencies.” This is just fancy Washington, D.C. lingo for saying that he wants to put D.C.’s federal bureaucracy on steroids.
Kudos to Comer for starting to tackle this beast of an agency — one of the biggest government bureaucracy and overreach problems that you’ve likely never heard of. But while hitting OPM is a great first step in tackling federal waste, fraud, and abuse, Comer of course shouldn’t stop here. There’s plenty of other issues the American taxpayers are counting on the committee to investigate this year.
Congress still has too many unanswered questions on the $60 billion in COVID fraud that prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in U.S. history. It knows very little about why the National Institute of Health can waste as much as 87% of its multi-billion-dollar research budget or why agencies like the Department of Health can spend money on absurdities like studies analyzing romance between pets. Which of these agencies is acting against its statutory authority? Which are violating federal procurement laws and regulations, and which can be reined in with just a little investigatory legwork from Congress? That’s for Comer’s committee to find out.
Under this divided Congress, we might not have many legislative victories this year, but under the leadership of the House Oversight Committee, we can have more government accountability and more money in all our pockets. And that’s a big win in and of itself.
Here’s hoping Comer maintains an aggressive, results-oriented posture, both in this first committee hearing and in the weeks and months to come. The fate of this year’s Republican agenda is hinging on it.
Andrew Langer is the president of Institute for Liberty.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.