First, the scandal. Next, the Congressional hearings. In the case of the General Services Administration’s $823,000 Las Vegas spending spree, Capitol Hill lawmakers have scheduled four hearings in four days on the issue for when they return from Easter recess next week.
The public fact-finding missions are bipartisan, with Democrats eager to show they are moving swiftly to condemn irresponsible spending and Republicans eager to condemn a Democratic White House for allowing it to happen.
House Republicans John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Jeff Denham (R-Ca.) scheduled a hearing shortly after last week’s release of the GSA’s inspector general’s report on the four-day conference. The “egregious spending habits of the GSA” will be examined, a press release says of the April 19 hearing.
In the Senate, separate transportation and apppropriations panels have scheduled back-to-back hearings for April 18.
Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the chamber's No. 2 Democrat and head of the appropriations subcomittee, called misspending at the Western Regions conference in 2010 “an absolutely outrageous expenditure of taxpayers' money," on NBC's Meet the Press.
Then came House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), with an announcement Monday that he will hold his own hearing on April 16.
“The two [House] investigations have been complementary,” Issa spokesman Ali Ahmad said.
A Democratic strategist sought to turn the tables back on the Republicans, saying that the administration’s “own independent investigators” had uncovered the waste — and not congressional overseers of the executive branch. The official spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Lawmakers have invited numerous officials involved in the scandal to testify, from former Adminsitrator Martha Johnson, who was forced last week to resign, to Jeff Neely, the San Francisco-based regional commissioner who organized the Las Vegas conference. Neely has been placed on administrative leave pending further disciplinary action.