Last month, the White House adopted talking points that reflected a truly radical interpretation of the Constitution: that Congress has no oversight responsibility over the White House. Some sample quotes:
SNOW: Congress doesn’t have any legitimate oversight and responsibilities to the White House. [Fox, 3/22/07]
PERINO: The Congress does not have oversight over the White House. [Press briefing, 3/26/07]
SNOW: First, the White House is under no compulsion to do anything. The legislative branch doesn’t have oversight. [MSNBC, 3/22/07]
Today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino reversed that position:
We understand that the Congress has a role to play, which is oversight over the executive branch. I believe that this administration has been responsive to Congress, as we’ve worked with the new majorities as well, that we’ve been responsive.
Watch her clips back to back:
The claim that Congress has no oversight responsibilities is of course plainly false. As the Congressional Research Service states in its Congressional Oversight Manual, “The Constitution grants Congress extensive authority to oversee and investigate executive branch activities.”
As for the White House’s reversal today, it may well be a coordinated political decision. But it seems just as likely that Congress’ oversight responsibilities are so astoundingly obvious that Perino simply forgot her month-old talking points and said what she actually believes to be true.
PERINO: We said, there’s no need to authorize subpoenas, because we have — even though we don’t have any responsibility to you, and you don’t have any specific oversight over the White House, we are willing to have our four officials that you’ve asked for to go up and have an interview with members of Congress — all those details to be worked out — and that we would release documents from here, from the White House, to outside entities. [3/26/07]
PERINO: I do think that there is a difference between oversight and overreaching. And we understand that the Congress has a role to play, which is oversight over the executive branch. I believe that this administration has been responsive to Congress, as we’ve worked with the new majorities as well, that we’ve been responsive. But there does come a point where it does start to look like over-reaching. [4/25/07]