As millions are doled out to even the smallest banks, billions are being promised for an unprecedented stimulus package and the national deficit enters the trillion-dollar territory, lawmakers in the U.S. House believe there’s no time like the present to keep a careful watch over the country’s coffers. By a unanimous vote last week, the House endorsed a new internal rule that will force all standing committees to periodically review topics of waste, fraud and abuse. The rule was backed by the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of conservative Democrats, and co-sponsored by Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville.
Melancon, a Democrat, says House Resolution 40 opposes deficit spending, promotes fiscal responsibility and could potentially root out mismanagement. “As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to make sure taxpayer dollars are being used wisely and efficiently, and this resolution goes a long way toward accomplishing this goal,” Melancon says. The resolution he co-sponsored requires that each standing committee in the House hold at least three hearings per year to watch over the agencies under each panel’s jurisdiction. Additional hearings would be called if an agency’s audit has a “high risk” disclaimer for waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement.
The Project On Government Oversight, a nonprofit that investigates corruption on the federal level, supported the change. Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, says Congress must play a more active role in watching over federal agencies, and that means following up on audits and reviews. “If an agency will not fix a broken program, then it is up to Congress to force them to do so,” Brian says.—Jeremy Alford