1. Define congressional oversight.
Congressional oversight is a method of supervision of federal bureaucracy. Though there is no mention of this role for Congress in the Constitution, it is considered an implied power.
2. Describe three methods of congressional oversight.
The three methods of congressional oversight include appropriations and legislative committees, the legislative veto, and congressional investigations. All agencies for the federal government can only exist if Congress approves them. The legislative committees set the statutes for the agency and the authorization legislation decides how much money will be given to the agency. The Appropriations Committee decides how much of the money established by Congress can be spent on the agency in any give time period. Next, a legislative veto is a tool Congress uses to block bureaucratic or presidential actions. Though the Supreme Court has declared it unconstitutional, Congress continues to use the legislative veto. Finally, a Congressional investigation allows Congress to investigate matters involving certain agencies or events. Though not mentioned in the Constitution, Congress is allowed to use this because it is considered an inferred power. The Supreme Court has sided with Congress on this power and has upheld this interpretation.
3. Which method do you feel is the most powerful?
In my opinion, the Appropriations Committee is the most powerful method of congressional oversight. If there is no money to run an agency, then that agency becomes just a symbolic representation of the law. It is powerless to carry out any of its duties effectively. For example, if the EPA does not have funds, it cannot hire enough people to investigate polluters. The EPA needs to have a large enough staff to at least investigate all major threats to the environment.
4. Do you feel congressional oversight is effective?
Yes, I do feel that congressional oversight is effective. We may not always feel that every agency is run in the most efficient manner. But if you compare the health and safety of most citizens in the United States to any country in the world, it is plain to see that we have the best federal bureaucracy in the world. I feel that congressional oversight is essential for the organization of agencies and the efficacy of our bureaucratic system.
5. Research INS vs. Chahda at OYEZ.org, including discussion-based arguments, summary and facts of case. Describe the method of oversight used here and the implications of the Chadha decision on the bureaucratic process.
INS vs. Chadha was an immigration issue involving the rights of an immigrant and Congress’ right to a legislative veto. This case involved an immigrant who had overstayed on his student visa and no country was willing to accept him back. He sought a suspension of his deportation and Congress vetoed it. He challenged this veto in a Court of Appeals and finally the INS appealed to the Supreme Court to give a final judgement. The Supreme Court then ruled that Congress did have the power to use a legislative veto as it goes against the division of powers in the Constitution. If Congress is allowed to veto actions of the executive branch, then it, effectively, makes the executive branch powerless and Congress the most powerful branch. After this ruling, though Congress continued the use of legislative vetoes, other methods like the fast track legislation have been adopted that achieve the same results. Presidents have also started using executive signing statements to counter the legislative veto. Finally, in theory, all laws using the legislative veto can be thrown out if any person would challenge its constitutionality.