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Military Construction, Veterans Affairs And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am here to discuss a very important matter that I had intended to bring up in the Judiciary Committee last week but the agenda did not allow it. It is about the oversight of the Department of Justice and the responses provided by Attorney General Holder to questions from the Judiciary Committee. Two weeks ago, Chairman Leahy--and I thank him for participating--and I sent a letter to the Attorney General asking him to stand by his statements made during his confirmation and answer a number of outstanding requests for information. That list includes questions submitted by members of the Judiciary Committee to an FBI oversight hearing over 1 1/2 years ago. We all agreed no committee should have to wait that long to get answers to oversight questions.

Last Friday, the Judiciary Committee received answers from the Attorney General following his June 17, 2009, testimony. I hoped he would uphold his commitment he made during his confirmation hearing to ``fully and in a timely fashion'' answer Judiciary Committee inquiries.

The questions I submitted to Attorney General Holder addressed a number of important issues, including a series of 24 questions related to the Department's involvement with the termination of Inspector General Walpin at the Corporation for National and Community Service. The answers I received were totally inadequate. Instead of answering the 24 questions, the Department responded with a five-paragraph recitation of publicly available facts and information. The Department also said it would respond under separate cover to the document requests. I appreciate the Department's comments that it intends to respond to my requests, but I am very concerned this is more of the same problem Chairman Leahy and I were trying to get at with our letter 2 weeks ago.

My questions were more than just requests for documents and asking for a recitation of public facts. They were serious inquiries about the role the acting U.S. attorney played in the termination of that inspector general. I requested specific answers to questions that have arisen in my investigation. For example, I asked about communications between the U.S. attorney and the Office of Professional Responsibility and whether the referral by the U.S. attorney complied with the ethical requirements outlined in the U.S. Attorneys' manual for misconduct by non-Department of Justice attorneys and judges. While this is only one example of the questions I asked, none of the questions were specifically answered.

While the Department did say it was going to provide the documents I requested under separate cover, the response seems to indicate that all my questions were answered. They were not answered. I intend to get these answers.

This is a prime example of what is wrong with the inadequate responses to all our questions. They avoid the question and filibuster with public facts.

I have previously stated that unless the Department of Justice starts answering our questions completely and in a timely manner, I will start holding up nominees. I have done nothing but patiently work in good faith with the chairman and the Department to get answers. Yet despite these threats, it is business as usual.

This culture of not answering questions timely, in an evasive manner, and punting document requests to future separate cover letters is unacceptable. We have a constitutional duty to oversee the bureaucracy, and the executive branch is thumbing its nose at the Congress. I know Chairman Leahy agrees oversight is an important part of what the Judiciary Committee does. I hope he will continue to work with all members to get answers from the Attorney General. He has surely helped me.

I am tired of wasting time having to raise these concerns publicly, but shaming the Department seems to be the only way they will respond, and even that doesn't work all the time. This administration rode into town on a campaign of accountability and transparency. Attorney General Holder told all of us he respected congressional oversight. Yet in his first set of oversight questions submitted by the committee, he gave us the same nonresponse we have seen from the Department. That is not the accountability or transparency the American taxpayers deserve.

This is yet another public warning to the Department. It is time to start responding fully to our requests in a timely manner or face the consequences. I hope the Attorney General and his staff will hear this and provide complete answers to our questions prior to his scheduled appearance in the Judiciary Committee later this month.

I see my colleague, Senator Kyl. I think he has interest in this oversight matter as well.

I yield the floor.

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