There have been some real characters elected to Congress through the years. Davy Crockett, for instance, served one term in the House of Representatives, then told his constituents to go to hell and headed for Texas where he died defending the Alamo and became an American icon. And who could ever forget those delightful violin concertos delivered so frequently by Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia?
Fortunately, the current Congress is not without its share of fascinating personalities. Take Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who seems to be moonlighting at a comedy club.
It seems Waxman had folks rolling in the aisles last week with this sidesplitter, masterfully delivered in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan: “I am a strong supporter of congressional oversight, and I respect and support the Committee’s right to seek information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But I do not believe your oversight powers justify going on fishing expeditions or making extensive requests for internal e-mails and other communications where there is no evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse of any kind.”
Coming from Waxman, the line about fishing expeditions is nothing short of hilarious. During his two years in the chair now occupied by Upton, Waxman demanded documents, issued subpoenas and dragooned witnesses, particularly if doing so resulted in embarrassment for Republicans, Fortune 500 CEOs, oil companies or public utilities. As ranking minority member, Waxman told Upton he could not understand why the Department of Health and Human Services was asked for so many documents on Obamacare waivers.
“In the absence of any evidence of misconduct, asking for this much information for 222 waivers appears to be either another fishing expedition or an attempt to bog down the agency with excessive document requests,” Waxman wrote.
It appears events might have outpaced Waxman. As Upton wrote in his response, the latest figures from Health and Human Services indicate more than 700 such waivers have been issued. “Thus, HHS has apparently granted more than three times as many waivers as you cite in your letter,” Upton wrote. “This fact alone underscores the dire need for oversight of the health care law, its effects, and its implementation by this Administration.”
Nobody was laughing, though, when Upton added that under Waxman’s leadership, the committee failed to convene a single hearing on Obamacare.
“During the months following passage of the bill, the American people were subjected to rising premiums, increased costs, employers that were considering ending their health care coverage, unpopular policies secretly inserted into regulations without public comment, insurers exiting the market altogether, and the need to exempt many businesses from the disastrous effects of the PPACA. Yet this committee remained silent,” Upton wrote.
Clearly Upton does not know that happened when Waxman was away on a real fishing expedition.