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Opinion Pieces

I’ve got a lot of problems with you people (unaccountable bureaucrats)

Frank, the father of George Constanza in the hit 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld” would begin Festivus, a fictional holiday he created, with the Airing of Grievances. To friends and family gathered at the dinner table, Frank would shout, “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! Now, you’re going to hear about it!”

In honor of the spirit of Festivus and on behalf of the American people, I have a grievance to air: The American people have a lot of problems with unelected and unaccountable federal bureaucrats. 

Bureaucrats in federal agencies frequently defy Congress as they blithely wield the power to potentially destroy Americans’ lives and businesses. We now effectively live in a country ruled by federal fiat. 

In our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote “governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed.” 

We are a country founded by “We the People;” in the Constitution, the Founders enshrined our rights and formed a nation with three separate but equal branches of government.

And yet, over the course of many years, we have seen federal agencies and the executive branch erode our liberties and usurp powers the Constitution explicitly reserved to “We the People” through their representatives in Congress. 

A classic example is the No Surprises Act, which Congress passed three years ago – in bipartisan fashion – to provide price transparency for patients and remove the financial burden of surprise out of network medical bills. 

In direct violation of the law that we wrote, the Biden Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) implemented rule-making that ultimately enriches insurance companies, exactly what we legislated against.

In my role as chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, I’ve seen HHS refuse to answer questions concerning actions taken during the pandemic. We had to issue a subpoena to compel them. This should not be – agencies are accountable to Congress. The work of federal agencies is funded by taxpayers and belongs to We the People.

While American families were being decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senior Scientific Advisor of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Dr. David Morens attempted to thwart a law providing the American public with sunlight and transparency on the work their government conducts called the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

Among other requirements, FOIA regulations require federal agencies to retain email communications for a minimum of three years. In contravention of FOIA, Dr. Morens told colleagues to communicate with him via his personal email. He said he would delete anything he didn’t want seen in the New York Times.  

Sadly, some seem more than willing to ignore these actions.

The list of agencies that act as if they are not accountable to Congress goes on and on. We are seeking to implement reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) because on several occasions, the FBI acted with impunity and abused its authority. 

The infamous “Crossfire Hurricane” hoax, where the government summoned everything in its Machiavellian arsenal to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page, is a case in point. The Department of Justice Inspector General found “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts” in more than two dozen FBI wiretap applications to the FISA court. 

In each of the four FISA applications the FBI submitted to spy on Page, there were “significant inaccuracies and omissions:” seven in the first FISA application, and a total of 17 by the final renewal application, according to the Inspector General. The Department of Justice (DOJ) would later admit that at least two of the four warrant applications submitted lacked probable cause, a bedrock right guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment.

What was then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s reward for his lack of candor under oath and furthering the “Crossfire Hurricane” hoax? A job at CNN and his full FBI pension.

Compare these practices to the military, where the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) holds that unethical conduct is unlawful. Honesty, transparency and trust matter; we need that from our government. Federal agencies are funded by Congress and accountable to us – if they will not follow the law, then we should defund them.

“Give me liberty or give me death,” said Founding Father Patrick Henry in 1775. The people’s representatives in Congress need to summon that spirit and fight for the people we represent and our liberties, restoring our government of “we, the People.”

On the House Intelligence Committee, on the Ways and Means Committee, and on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are working to set the agencies straight. We the People, and our representatives, write the laws – not the agencies. It is Congress’ duty to zealously guard the powers the Founders gave to the legislative branch on behalf of “we, the people.” 

We can do this. Happy Festivus. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.