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Chairman Hensarling Discusses Obama Administration’s Lack of Accountability, Transparency at Hearing with Treasury Secretary

Washington, May 8, 2014 - House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at today’s committee hearing with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew:

Secretary Lew, we welcome you back to the committee. We all hope on the state of the international finance system, we trust your testimony will prove insightful and forthright.

I would note on his very first day in office, President Obama declared his administration would be – and I quote – “the most open and transparent in history.”  The President pledged “a new era” and “an unprecedented level of openness” across the massive federal government.

Regrettably, the American people have instead witnessed what Time magazine recently described as “the most secretive presidency in American history.”  An administration that has “censored more documents and delayed or denied access to more government files than ever before.”  Again, the source is Time magazine.  Not Tea Party Monthly, again, Time magazine.

From matters surrounding the IRS to Obamacare to Benghazi, this Administration has refused to be accountable to the American people and their elected representatives in the United States Congress, a co-equal branch of government enshrined in Article I of our Constitution.  Too often, the Administration has obfuscated answers, delayed answers or refused to provide answers.  It is a pattern seen throughout the Administration.  But let’s focus for a moment on Treasury. 

The Center for Effective Government released a report card a few weeks ago grading federal agencies on their implementation of the Freedom of Information Act.  No agency in what is supposed to be history’s “most open and transparent” Administration received an “A.”  The Treasury Department received a “D.”  But in fairness to the Secretary, several agencies received an “F.”

This is not a surprise to many of us since requests for information from this committee, unfortunately, are too often ignored or delayed or, Mr. Secretary, produced on the eve of your next appearance.

Mr. Secretary, as we know you are a busy man but appearances before our committee have proven challenging to schedule. And during your last appearance before our committee I personally asked you if the Administration had ever submitted a balanced budget – twice I did not receive an answer.  In the last appearance before our committee, Mr. Garrett asked you if the Volcker Rule would have a negative impact on the corporate bond market – three times, you declined to answer that question.  Mr. McHenry asked you whether Treasury had ever sought a legal opinion on debt payment prioritization – in that case, you did not answer four separate times.

Mr. Secretary, when it comes to my questioning, I want to be fair. I would like an answer. I would be happy to give you a moment to put context but I would respectfully request, again, that questions that are put to you are answered.

Mr. Secretary, with respect to scheduling, we know that you have recently had surgery and we are glad that you are recovering.  I think most of us have said that both privately and publicly and we are certainly not unsympathetic to the havoc that wreaked on your schedule. But I do note that press reports indicate that subsequent to your return to work you did manage to schedule two full days of appearances in Detroit; two full days of meetings at the World Bank. Today we are grateful, but we also know that you are only going to schedule two hours this month for a statutorily required appearance before our committee.  A statutorily required appearance that is now two months late and comes on the heels of the last statutory appearance before the committee, which was nine months late.

As we both know, your next statutory appearance is scheduled next month. I would respectfully request that you prioritize the appearance and schedule sufficient time to answer all member questions.

Briefly, I will turn to the state of the international finance system. On the important matter of increased taxpayer commitment to the IMF, I feel again the Administration was somewhat less than open and transparent.  The fact that the IMF is moving forward with a package for Ukraine – without the quota increase – would seem to belie the Administration’s claims that the increase was essential to the IMF’s ability to render effective assistance to Ukraine. I’m sure we will hear more from the Secretary on that matter.

And as I gaze to my left and to right, looking at the national debt clock spinning out of control, I again wonder about the wisdom of effectively converting an emergency commitment to the IMF to a permanent one. And when I hear of proffered reforms, a robust exceptional access framework appears to be lacking.  It begs the question, whether on a going-forward basis the reforms that have been proffered -- will it lead the IMF to exacerbate or mitigate a global bailout mentality? I believe Chairman Campbell will have more to say on this subject in his opening comments and in his questions.

Again, Mr. Secretary, we do welcome you back here. We wish you a continued recovery. We look forward to having you back next month where we hope you will be able to stay longer and catch up on your schedule.


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