At least one top Trump Cabinet official is bucking administration policy when it comes to oversight requests from Congress.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told senators on Tuesday during congressional testimony that his department will respond to any inquiry from members of Congress, no matter who sends the request. A May 1 opinion from the Justice Department argues that only chairmen – all of which are Republicans, since the GOP controls Congress — have the power to conduct oversight of the Trump administration.
“We’re leaning forward,” Kelly told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Regardless of who the letter comes from, and it doesn’t have to just come from a ranking member or chairman, we’ll respond to any congressional inquiry.”
Kelly noted during his testimony that under his tenure, DHS has appeared more than 37 times before Congress, sent 57 witnesses and has been involved in 973 “Hill engagements.” The Homeland chief also noted that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), known for his zealous oversight of the executive branch, “gave me nothing but high marks” on the matter.
“We’re going to make that better,” Kelly said. “I think in every case thus far, and certainly in the last 90 days, 60 days anyways, we’re getting high marks. I will not freeze you out.”
Democrats have expressed outrage about stonewalling from the Trump administration on their oversight requests — yet senators gave high marks to Kelly for his pledge to be responsive to Congress, no matter who sends the ask.
“Whether you’re on that committee or whether you’re a member of Congress, oversight is our big job,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told Kelly. “I appreciate you not doing that and I hope that policy continues.”
Added Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the committee’s top Democrat: “I do appreciate that you all have not frozen us out. Many of my colleagues are being frozen out across the government. You have not frozen us out, and I’m deeply grateful for that.”