New reform committee leaders raise questions

Industry leaders wonder if the panel will have the same clout it did under its recent chairmen

Now that the new leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have been chosen, industry leaders wonder if the group will have the same clout it did under its recent chairmen.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) headed the group from 2003 until Democrats regained majority status in the House in 2006. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) took over at that point. Both men wielded considerable influence.

Now the lesser-known Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) will hold the gavel.

In addition to new leadership, the committee may also lack the strong agenda that Davis and Waxman worked from. “The oversight committee got a lot of its legislative priorities passed in 2008, so it’s not clear what may emerge as front-burner legislation in 2009,” said Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

Others think the committee’s influence may wane because the Democratic-led Congress will be more accommodating of a Democratic administration than it would a Republican one.

“It’s difficult to do oversight on your own party,” said Ray Shepherd, a partner at the Venable law firm and former staff director and chief counsel of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee.

Towns, who was chairman of the committee’s Government Management, Organization and Procurement Subcommittee, said in a statement last week he intends to do “constructive oversight of the executive branch and private sector,” with particular attention to contracting reforms and federal employee issues. He said his goal is to improve systems and save money.

Republicans chose Rep. Darrell Issa of California as the committee’s new ranking member, replacing Davis, who is retiring from Congress.
Allen said he’s interested in watching the relationship between Towns and Issa. 

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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