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Old 06-12-2019, 10:58 AM
CC is offline
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Where does it say that congress has the obligation of oversight?


I keep hearing people say that congress has the constitutional obligation to provide oversight of the President. But I can't find anything in the constitution that specifically lays out that obligation. Can some Doper find the spot(s) that delineate(s) this task? Or is this something that's been interpreted by the Supremes? I'd appreciate the edification. And, please, no politics - just the facts. Thanks.
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:16 AM
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The logic I've heard is that it is Congress was formed under Article I and thus Congress formed the executive and judicial branch. While I may disagree with that logic, Congress as the oversight body has been that way in practice considering Congress has the power of impeachment, creates the Cabinet positions, provided the structure of the judicial system, etc.

IMO, the "Constitutional" authority to provide oversight comes from the fact that as originally formed, the Federal government is responsible to the people (House of Representatives) and the sovereign states (Senate).
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CC View Post
I keep hearing people say that congress has the constitutional obligation to provide oversight of the President. But I can't find anything in the constitution that specifically lays out that obligation. Can some Doper find the spot(s) that delineate(s) this task? Or is this something that's been interpreted by the Supremes? I'd appreciate the edification. And, please, no politics - just the facts. Thanks.
I don't think you're going to find much authority of the proposition that Congress is constitutionally obligated to engage in oversight of the executive branch. But its authority to do so is considered to be "implied" in its constitutional power to legislate.

In McGrain v. Daugherty (1927), the Court seemed to suggest that Congress' power to investigate was limited to investigations that would aid in legislating (as opposed to oversight generally), but upheld an investigation into the Department of Justice (related to the Teapot Dome scandal) on the grounds that "the Department of Justice, the powers and duties of the Attorney General and the duties of his assistants, are all subject to regulation by congressional legislation, and that the department is maintained and its activities are carried on under such appropriations as in the judgment of Congress are needed from year to year." Because of that was within the congressional power to legislate, Congress had the power to investigate the Attorney General's prosecution decisions. I would think that the scope of that holding would leave very little outside of Congress' oversight powers.

To the best of my knowledge, the next major data point was the Congressional Reorganization Act of 1946 where Congress gave itself the power (and perhaps obligation) to exercise "continuous watchfulness" of the administration of the laws and programs that it enacted.

I think that the short answer is that, because many of the powers of the executive are a product of congressional action or susceptible to congressional regulation, congress has a broad authority to investigate the manner in which those powers are being executed as part of its authority to legislate in relation to them.

Last edited by Falchion; 06-12-2019 at 11:21 AM. Reason: so many typos
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:32 AM
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Here is a really easy to read history of the implied power of Congress to investigate things (not just the Executive Branch):

https://law.justia.com/constitution/...tigations.html

Quote:
No provision of the Constitution expressly authorizes either house of Congress to make investigations and exact testimony to the end that it may exercise its legislative functions effectively and advisedly. But such a power had been frequently exercised by the British Parliament and by the Assemblies of the American Colonies prior to the adoption of the Constitution.185 It was asserted by the House of Representatives as early as 1792 when it appointed a committee to investigate the defeat of General St. Clair and his army by the Indians in the Northwest and empowered it to “call for such persons, papers, and records, as may be necessary to assist their inquiries.”186

The Court has long since accorded its agreement with Congress that the investigatory power is so essential to the legislative function as to be implied from the general vesting of legislative power in Congress. “We are of the opinion,” wrote Justice Van Devanter for a unanimous Court, “that the power of inquiry—with process to enforce it—is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function. . . . A legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change; and where the legislative body does not itself possess the requisite information—which not infrequently is true—recourse must be had to others who possess it...."

And, in a 1957 opinion generally hostile to the exercise of the investigatory power in the post-War years, Chief Justice Warren did not question the basic power. “The power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic or political system for the purpose of enabling the Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste.”188 [snip]
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:44 PM
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In one of the recent court cases dismissing the President's challenge to a congressional subpoena, the District Court said that the power to investigate the President is implicit in the impeachment power. T

That's a somewhat different rationale from the power to investigate in aid of legislation, mentioned above in this thread.

The District Court held that since the Constitution gives the House of Reps the power to institute impeachment proceedings, the House by implication must have the constitutional power to investigate the President, to make an initial assessment whether impeachment proceedings are warranted.
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