WASHINGTON — Rep. James Lankford, a member of the U.S. House committee that has been investigating the terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi in 2012, was opposed last year to the creation of a special committee to investigate the killings.
Last May, Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was making progress and that he wouldn’t support a select committee “until we have exhausted all possible leads and have hit complete road blocks on key unanswered questions.”
Friday, Lankford expressed support for House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement that he will establish a select committee, saying it was the “next essential step in getting the truth about the events surrounding the attack on our outpost in Benghazi almost two years ago.”
“The Administration has forced the need for a Select Committee investigation by failing to provide — and, in some cases, withholding — information vital to our congressional investigations,” Lankford said.
“On behalf of the American people, members of the Committees of jurisdiction over Benghazi have worked tirelessly for almost two years to find the truth and take the necessary action to ensure failures of this magnitude never risk American lives overseas again. House leaders have shown (Friday) that we will leave no stone unturned to get the American people the truth about the murder of four Americans.”
All four other U.S. House members from Oklahoma have been sponsoring legislation for a year to establish a select committee. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, argued a year ago that a select committee would streamline the investigation and eliminate some of the overlap in Congress.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was among the four Americans killed in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Libya. Congressional Republicans insist that the Obama administration misled Congress and the American people in the immediate aftermath of the attack, trying to play down an act of terrorism that would reflect poorly on President Barack Obama weeks before the 2012 presidential election.
Coburn concerned pork will return
Sen. Tom Coburn’s legacy most certainly will include his determined fight to eliminate the pork barrel projects that grew to overwhelm lawmakers and turn their offices into gift shops for lobbyists.
Now, as the Muskogee Republican approaches retirement, he is worried that the practice will reappear after several years in remission.
Coburn and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, of Colorado, urged their colleagues to sign a letter supporting a continued moratorium on earmarks, and Coburn penned a column for the Wall Street Journal on the topic.
In their letter, Coburn and Udall warned that some members of Congress were calling for a return to doling out special projects.
“We believe this would be unwise and would further damage Congress’ reputation and ability to tackle the nation’s challenges,” the letter states.
“We recognize there are a wide range of views on this subject in our caucuses, but we believe it is important to reaffirm our support for this policy. Congress has ample flexibility to exercise its power of the purse and represent the interests of our constituents without using earmarks.”
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, is among those who wants to bring back earmarks. Durbin made the familiar argument in defense of earmarks, telling Roll Call that he didn’t want to turn over decisions about projects in his state to Washington bureaucrats.
Before lawmakers put a moratorium on the process, a whole earmark industry had developed in Washington, as lobbyists worked for towns, universities, Indian tribes and private companies seeking pork barrel projects. Lawmakers who participated in the process — and not all did — essentially were given a chunk of money to allot to their favored projects.
According to the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, earmarking reached a record $29 billion in 2006.
In 2010, House Republicans decided they would not request earmarks; since they took control of the House in 2011, their position put an end to the practice. Senate Republicans also voted for a moratorium, and the process, as it existed for decades, has pretty much disappeared.
Rep. Lankford who was among those voting to ban the practice just after being elected to his first term, was one of the first to sign Coburn’s letter last week.
Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, said his group would send letters to lawmakers urging them to support the effort.
Some have been claiming that reviving the earmarking process would help break congressional gridlock, Schatz said.
“If doling out special-interest pork at a time when there is a $17.5 trillion national debt hanging over our collective heads is the only way to get Congress back to work on behalf of taxpayers, members have sunk even lower than their approval numbers, and that would be quite an achievement,” Schatz said.
Inhofe says EPA delayed key pollution rule
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is expecting to hear from Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy soon about whether the agency deliberately delayed a new pollution rule for power plants so it wouldn’t hurt Democrats running for election this year.
Inhofe said he recently discovered that the EPA delayed the bureaucratic process for implementing the rule, known as New Source Performance Standards. And Inhofe’s office pointed last week to a major discrepancy in what McCarthy told a Senate committee early this year.
At an Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing in January, Inhofe asked McCarthy whether the agency had submitted the proposed pollution rule immediately to the Federal Register for publication. She said the agency had submitted the proposal “as soon as it was released” Sept. 20.
Inhofe followed up on McCarthy’s answer by contacting the Federal Register, which told him that the proposed rule hadn’t been submitted until 66 days after it was made public.
The significance of the delay, Inhofe said, is that it allows the EPA to wait until after the November elections to finalize a rule that could hamper power generation and raise prices for electricity generated by coal.
Inhofe sent a letter to McCarthy last week with several questions and requests for documents, including possible correspondence between the EPA and White House budget office about the power plant rule.
Inhofe and other Obama administration critics have also charged that the latest delay in a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline was politically motivated because of the mid-term elections.