10 Questions for Rep. Henry Waxman

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jeff Hutchens for TIME

Representative Henry Waxman

As the House's top watchdog, this veteran Congressman from Hollywood has been tackling everything from contractor fraud to federal cronyism. Henry Waxman will now take your questions.

Why should constituents still believe in Congress?Frederick Do, riverside, calif.
Our system can be self-correcting. When the public knows what is going on, it can change the country's direction by changing the leaders whether they are Presidents or members of Congress. So many government agencies these days are filled with cronies. We have to change that.

What disturbs you most about the Bush Administration?Aashish Parekh, antofagasta, chile
They are very secretive. They don't want the Congress of the American people to know what they are up to. Some of their actions make it seem like the government belongs to them rather than the people.

How will the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigate scandals in Washington?Dianne Twersky, new york city
On a bipartisan basis, if possible. The way the Republicans handled their oversight was a good example of how not to behave. They became partisan by not looking at issues that might embarrass the Administration.

What is your reaction to President Bush's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence?Shahab Moghadam, saratoga, calif.
This Administration gave special treatment to Scooter Libby. There are 5,000 appeals to the President for mercy—almost all of which he has rejected. It is troubling to think Libby may have thought he would never have to spend time in prison.

Will the oversight committee investigate the Libby pardon?Stephen Henslin, spicer, minn.
I haven't decided. The commutation and pardon authority is exclusive to the President, and Congress has no role it in, but I still think we need answers.

Are there grounds for impeaching Dick Cheney or anyone else?Ronald Klug, amery, wis.
It is unlikely that Congress would go for an impeachment. I don't think we have enough evidence, although it is not impossible that we could find enough. One of the reasons that so much attention is being paid to the 2008 presidential election is that so many Americans have already given up on the Bush Administration and are waiting for the future.

What will you do to stop the waste and fraud in the government procurement system?Ronald Bell, los angeles
I consider stopping waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars our highest priority. We have held hearings on the waste of dollars in the crop-insurance program and in Iraq contracts with Halliburton. It is shocking that we took $12 billion and sent it to Iraq and as a result we have $8.8 billion that can't be accounted for.

What can your committee do about witnesses who say they do not recall anything?Steve Hychka, west lafayette, ind.
It is very frustrating when witnesses act as if they can't recall as a way to avoid perjuring themselves. We did bring back one witness who had testified that she didn't recall but went to another hearing and testified that she did recall. Asking her to answer those discrepancies was a signal that we are going to hold people accountable.

What lessons have you learned from lining up challenging witnesses like the seven top tobacco executives in 1994?Brett Schwartz wildwood crest, n.j.
The hearing was a good example of what an oversight hearing should be. When those executives appeared before us, it gave a face to the tobacco industry, and it gave the public a chance to realize they were lying. We didn't get legislation, but it changed public attitudes.

What has been the most underreported scandal in Washington this year?Andrew Goldstein, brooklyn, n.y.
I don't know that there is anything this year, but I thought the press was irresponsible in its coverage of the lead-up to and the early prosecution of the Iraq war. It gave enormous deference to Bush at a time when it should have been asking the tough questions. Too often when we watch the news, we are not getting the news. We are getting Paris Hilton and a lot of fluff.