WASHINGTON — White House officials are assuring lawmakers that the Trump administration is committed to answering the broad range of congressional inquiries, not just those from Republican-led committees and their chairmen.
The pledge is taking place after Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, took strong issue last month with a legal opinion issued by the Justice Department. The opinion said inquiries of executive branch programs could only be conducted by the full Republican-led House or Senate, committees and subcommittees, or their chairmen.
Democratic lawmakers were particularly alarmed that their requests might be simply ignored, and Grassley said they had every right to be.
Marc Short, director of legislative affairs at the White House, said the opinion was not intended as a statement of administration policy. Short told Grassley that the Trump administration’s policy is to respect the rights of all lawmakers to request information about executive branch policies and programs.
Short said the administration will do the best it can to answer lawmakers’ requests while still prioritizing requests from congressional committees and accounting for legitimate confidentiality concerns.
“When all 535 members of Congress can effectively conduct oversight and get answers, they can better serve the American people,” Grassley said in a statement issued Friday.
Grassley said he would still like to see the Justice Department rescind its legal opinion, “but this is a very good start.”
Tension between lawmakers and the executive branch over requests for information occurs no matter who is president, but those conflicts seemed to have increased since President Donald Trump took office. At the time of Grassley’s complaint, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., had said more than 100 inquiries had gone unanswered, and he thanked Grassley for stepping in.