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Blog Post | July 24, 2020

House Democrats Must Do More to Hold Trump's Cabinet Accountable

Congressional Oversight

During the 2018 midterms, Democrats promised to act as a much-needed check on a lawless president. Over a year and a half later, however, it is evident they have failed. 

From the moment House Democrats took control, Revolving Door Project (RDP) has been watching to see that they uphold their promises ready to elevate examples of good oversight and highlight areas where they were falling short. Unfortunately, there have been very few opportunities to do the former and an abundance of examples of the latter. 

Rep. Richard Neal’s early reluctance to request the president’s tax returns (which RDP quickly and roundly condemned) proved emblematic of Democratic leadership’s broader strategy to stand down rather than hold the President accountable. Far from a counterexample, leadership’s approach to impeachment – pursue the narrowest possible case and doom the effort to failure from the beginning – merely bolsters the point. 

This has become especially clear as a pandemic has shut down the country and crashed the economy. Even in these extraordinary circumstances, Democrats are still failing to stand up to the President. Oversight amidst this pandemic has been minimal, despite an abundance of rule-breaking, corruption, and incompetence from all corners of the administration. They have failed to use their leverage in multiple rounds of stimulus negotiations to institute meaningful guardrails. Months after the passage of the CARES Act, the bailout oversight commission still lacks a chairperson. And with each unchecked power grab, Trump becomes more emboldened. 

To help illustrate the scope and scale of House Democrats’ surrender, RDP has built a new tool to track hearings with Trump Cabinet officials. Oversight of these fantastically corrupt figures was desperately needed prior to the pandemic but has become even more essential in its wake. Every executive branch department is bound to have faced immense challenges as it responds to COVID-19, and rising to those challenges is, in many cases, nothing short of a matter of life and death. 

Yet, despite these stakes, many House committees have held no hearings with the Cabinet official under its jurisdiction since early March (and for some, much longer still), when the scale of the crisis was still only beginning to come into focus. Some of that can be chalked up to their extended absence from Washington D.C. throughout March and April. This is not, however, an excuse. Democratic leadership’s decision to leave the Capitol without having made provisions for remote proceedings is among its most unforgivable abdications of power. 

Months after the start of this crisis, House Democrats’ appetite for oversight does appear to be building slightly. Throughout the month of July, some committees have been busy making up for lost time. Even with this late-breaking accountability-focused posture, however, many remain unwilling to take on those at the highest level of this administration. And lawmakers’ fleeting willingness to make use of subpoenas seems to have also virtually disappeared. Left unchallenged, these figures grow more confident in their ability to trample common decency and break the law with impunity. 

The crisis is not over. The virus is still spreading and hundreds continue to lose their lives each day. The economic pain remains acute and will not fully dissipate for years to come. Still, the Trump administration continues to aggravate rather than relieve these conditions. In other words, we still need oversight. Better late than never.  

In the table below you will find an entry for each member of the Cabinet, the date on which they last testified before their House committee of jurisdiction, the total number of times they’ve testified before that committee and the number of days they have gone without testifying. 
Revolving Door Project will be updating this chart on a weekly basis. If you notice any mistakes or have any questions about the tool, please do not hesitate to send us an email at oversight@cepr.net.

The data in this visualization was compiled with the help of Revolving Door Project Research Fellow Mariama Eversley.

If you have any problems viewing this visualization, please click here.

If you have any problems viewing this visualization, please click here.

Congressional Oversight

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