GOP Votes Down Trump-Targeted E&C Rule, Oversight Amendments

House Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats took aim at the new Trump Administration in a series of proposed amendments to the committee's rules and to its oversight plan (House rules require each committee to adopt such an oversight plan).

The amendments were voted down by the committee Republicans, as the Dems almost certainly knew they would be.

One of the amendments would have required any presidential appointee who appeared before the committee to "disclose conflicts of interest directly related directly to the subject of that hearing," said ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who proposed the amendment. He said the amendment would provide "much needed transparency." He also suggested that was needed because "several of the President's recent nominations have come under scrutiny for "serious potential conflicts of interest issues that could directly affect their work." He called that a troubling development the committee should address.

He said he thought the American people should know if those officials would benefit from positions they are espousing in hearings.

Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) countered that the top 67 political appointees have already filed disclosure statements with the Office of Government Ethics, which is available online.

Democrats also tried to amend the oversight plan, which is an outline of what the committee plans to look at, though it does not limit what it can look at.

Democrats said one of the glaring omissions in the plan was that it did not include looking at preventing further attacks like the ones by Russia on the election system in an attempt to favor Trump.

Communications Subcommittee Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a former member of the Trump transition executive committee, said the subcommittee would take a broad view of cybersecurity, but that the amendment was not the way to protect Americans online.

Another was an amendment that would add to the oversight plan "investigation any efforts by the Trump Administration to generate profits for the Trump organization or businesses that supported the Trump campaign through regulatory decisions or selective enforcement."

Its chief backer, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) called it a "simple and appropriate assertion of Congress' Constitutional duty of Executive Branch oversight."

Republicans voted it down, suggesting it instead undermined Constitutional rights and made the Administration the subject of immediate investigations without any facts to back that up, creating a presumption that the Administration was acting in bad faith. "We do not need to make a partisan game of the oversight plan," said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.