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Will Congress act for America?

Published 9:34am Friday, May 17, 2013

There are good reasons why Americans hold Congress in low esteem. The Senate is virtually closed due to the abuses of the filibuster and the House can only say “No” while failing to offer any positive agenda for America. It has been enough to make voters want to fire everyone but their own Congressperson.

But now we need Congress to fulfill one of its core roles, the responsibility to provide balance in government to an executive branch that has grown toward an imperial presidency since the Reagan years and has now virtually demanded, by its actions, that Congress assert its role.

To be generous, Republicans have tried to create scandal in the Obama Administration since 2009. First with the horror stories of Obamacare run amuck, which never really happened. Then with Fast and Furious; but asking Americans to be stunned that with 300 million guns in the streets and more gun dealers in Arizona than fast food restaurants, when some guns went into the hands of Mexican criminals is not exactly big news.

Then came the 2012 election and the incredible charge that in Benghazi someone actually tampered with the words in a talking point message.

The shock of it all!

Again, though one cannot blame Fox or Republicans for a lack of effort, Americans just have not cared so much about a completely politicized narrative of events, overshadowing the deaths of four American patriots.

This week that has all changed, and if Republicans can keep from their own excesses (see the Clinton presidency) they can actually act with Democrats to protect the country from presidential overreach.

There are two key issues of administration overreach that demand response.

First, the IG’s report on the IRS abuse of conservative non-profit applications for status is damning across all layers of the IRS. And while President Obama asked for and was given the resignation of Steven Miller, acting director of the IRS, the issue should not be near closure.

The Justice Department has undertaken an investigation to determine if federal laws were broken during the two years of punitive treatment of conservative groups, and that is important.

Equally important is a Congressional investigation of whom within the IRS may have lied to Congress, and just how deeply in the IRS this corruption pervaded.

The American people need to know that our institutions act ethically and that oversight is never minimized. Congress has that clear responsibility of oversight, and in this case failed miserably to find the facts before the internal IG report.

There is no indication of any administration involvement in the IRS actions here, but that should be provided absolute clarity as well. When agencies act politically Americans need to know the source of motivation for those actions.

The second issue that demands Congressional investigation is the possible violation of the First Amendment rights of the press by the Justice Department subpoena and collection of reporters’ records from the Associated Press.

Attorney General Holder has said the action took place because a security leak put American lives at risk, but so far has failed to provide any specific information to support that claim. And, given the seriousness of this action, it should be clear to Congress that such explanation is absolutely necessary.

Congress has, in recent years, authorized a President to declare war, a role constitutionally reserved for Congress. Congress has supported laws like the Patriot Act, which resulted in admitted abuse by the FBI toward groups who posed no threat to the nation. Congress has also permitted “death by drone” policies without review of the executive branch’s right to such actions.

But now we need a Congress to assert its role of oversight aggressively, seeking nothing less than complete answers to how the IRS could go so far astray and how the Attorney General’s office could justify an attack on the First Amendment.

 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.

 

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