A Top House Republican Accuses the Labor Department of Avoiding Oversight
The department “consistently makes a good faith effort to be responsive to their questions,” said a Labor Department spokesperson.
A top House Republican is accusing the Labor Department of subverting oversight attempts.
At the beginning of the new Congress, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, re-upped her inquiries and requests for information, as many House Republicans did now that they are in the majority and seek to ramp up investigations into the Biden administration. The Labor Department provided three letters in response, which the congresswoman said were less than satisfactory.
“I write to express my deep dissatisfaction with what I can only interpret as your agency’s attempt to frustrate the Committee on Education and the Workforce’s authority to conduct oversight on the Department of Labor and demand accountability,” Foxx wrote on Feb. 16 to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who will be leaving the Biden administration in mid-March. “I assure you that I am not satisfied with DOL’s responses, as they neither answered my questions nor provided requested materials.”
The areas of inquiry include: the department’s alleged “inappropriate participation on the picket line in Lancaster, Pennsylvania” in October 2021; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s continued work on a permanent COVID-19 standard for healthcare workers (which Republicans have opposed); and requests for the senior Labor officials’ calendars following concerns that Labor officials were not returning to work in person.
The letter from Douglas Parker, assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, “failed to provide a justification of how OSHA reconciles the forthcoming standard with President Biden’s claim in September that ‘the pandemic is over’ or the administration’s Jan. 30 announcement that the public health emergency will end on May 11,” according to Foxx. In regard to the labor dispute letter, Foxx wrote the letter was “woefully insufficient.”
Parker wrote in response that “a permanent OSHA standard would rest on a finding, based on the best available evidence, that COVID-19 poses a significant risk to health care workers.” He stated that on Dec. 7, 2022, OSHA sent a draft final rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Liz Watson, assistant secretary for Labor, wrote in a Jan. 25 letter to Foxx that “as Secretary of Labor, [Walsh] does not support a particular result or take an official position on any claims that either side may be making in a labor dispute.” Also, as is customary, the department’s ethics attorneys reviewed his travel and the Labor Department inspector general determined that he hadn’t exceeded his authority with the visit.
A Labor Department spokesperson told Government Executive on Tuesday that “the Labor Department receives regular inquiries from members of Congress and consistently makes a good faith effort to be responsive to their questions.”
Last month, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved its oversight agenda, which laid out what’s to come from the Republicans during the new Congress.