Accountability

Read Outs From This Week’s Oversight Hearings

Communications • April 4, 2014

Read Out from the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing: “The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long”

Witnesses:

  • Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors
  • David Friedman, Acting Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Key Takeaways:

While the committee’s investigation is continuing, it is now clear that both GM and NHTSA knew about potential safety problems long ago and missed opportunities over the years to identify the defect and protect drivers. GM and NHTSA have produced 235,000 documents and the production continues. The committee’s findings so far reveal several red flags that should have triggered action sooner. Subcommittee Chairman Murphy said, “We know this: the red flags were there for GM and NHTSA to take action — but they didn’t.”

Members questioned Barra over who in the company knew what, when they knew it, and what they did about it. Members also questioned Barra on what changes GM would make to ensure a safety failure like this never happens again. While evidence showed the company was aware of the defective switches over a decade ago, the company failed to take action until this year. Members also pressed NHTSA’s Freidman on why the agency failed to identify a trend or open an investigation into the issue.

The committee will continue to investigate why GM and NHTSA failed to connect the dots and take action sooner. Chairman Upton concluded, “We will follow the facts where they lead us. And we will work until we have those answers, and can assure the public that they are safe.”

Read Out from the Committees on the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Joint Hearing on the Administration’s Dangerous Libya Policy

Witnesses:

  • Mr. Alan Bersin, Assistant Secretary of International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Ms. Janice Kephart, CEO, Secure Identity and Biometrics Association, and former counsel to the 9/11 Commission
  • Mr. James M. Chaparro, Executive Vice President for Strategy, Strategic Enterprise Solutions (SE Solutions)
  • Mr. Frederic Wehrey, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senior Associate, Middle East Program

Key Takeaways:

This week, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security held a joint hearing entitled, “Overturning 30 Years of Precedent: Is the Administration Ignoring the Dangers of Training Libyan Pilots and Nuclear Scientists?”

Last fall, the House Judiciary Committee obtained an internal draft final regulation from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) source that outlines the Obama Administration’s misguided and dangerous plan to lift a longstanding prohibition on Libyans coming to the U.S. to attend flight school, to work in aviation maintenance or flight operations, or to study or seek training in nuclear science. This prohibition was originally put in place in the 1980s after a wave of terrorist incidents involving Libyans.  The Administration justifies lifting this ban by claiming the United States’ relationship with Libya has since “normalized.”  However, our relationship with Libya is anything but normal. The terror threat continues and numerous news reports document recent terrorist incidents coming from Libya. And a year-and-a-half ago the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Although the House Judiciary Committee has sought information on this proposed policy shift twice, on November 25, 2013 and again on March 19, 2014 with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Department did not answer the substantive questions posed in the letters nor provide an adequate update on the regulation.  In fact, the Administration has moved forward on the regulation without seeking input from Congress. As a result, the two Committees decided to hold a hearing on this issue.

At the hearing this week, members were able to question Alan Bersin, the Assistant Secretary of International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for DHS, who is also the author of a controversial memo among other documents recommending that the Administration lift this longstanding ban that protects Americans and our national security interests.  Members also heard from national security experts about the dangers of the Administration’s proposal.

During the hearing, members learned that if this regulation were lifted, there would be nothing in place to prevent any Libyan from seeking to come to the United States for the purpose of becoming a pilot or nuclear scientist.  Additionally, Assistant Secretary Bersin admitted at the hearing that Libya is dangerous and unstable and could provide no justification for lifting the ban on Libyans coming to the U.S. to study nuclear science. He also admitted that we cannot trust the Libyan government to properly vet those wanting to come to the U.S due to its poor infrastructure.

Read Out from the Natural Resources Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Hearing: “Energy Independence: Domestic Opportunities to Reverse California’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Oil”

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable Jean Fuller, California State Senator
  • Ms. Alice Green, Member of the Board of Directors, SOS California
  • Mr. Dave Quast, California Director, Energy in Depth, Representing the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the California Independent Petroleum Association
  • Mr. Tim Olson, Manager, Transportation Energy Office California Energy Commission

Key Takeaways:

The hearing focused on California energy and the state’s drastic increase in foreign oil imports.  Since 2000, California has experienced a surge in foreign oil imports getting over 50 percent of its oil from foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, and Iraq.

California Senate Jean Fuller discussed the large amounts of energy reserves in the state that are currently not being developed.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that California’s Monterey Shale contains over 15 billion barrels of oil – more than estimates of North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. Federal waters off the coast of California contain energy reserves estimated to contain at least 9.8 billion barrels of oil and 13.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas according to the Interior Department.

California’s unemployment rate is currently 9 percent, the third highest in the country.  Alice Green discussed the numerous benefits of increasing energy production including “a dramatic reduction in foreign oil imports, permanently cleaner beaches, long-term funding increases for schools, substantial economic benefits and more jobs, billions in new annual revenues for the state and Santa Barbara County, and funding increases for renewable incentives.”

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