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The spending scandal that has besieged the General Services Administration will gather fresh momentum this week as four separate congressional committees investigate whether the lavish conference in Las Vegas in 2010 was just one of many splurges by GSA federal employees at taxpayers' expense.
David Hawkings, editor-in-chief of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about this and another scandal: that of the U.S. Secret Service agents sent home from President Obama's trip to Colombia. Here are some highlights:
David Hawkings on the purpose of the hearings this week: "On a cynical level, the purpose is for members of Congress to use their opportunity to convene a hearing and turn the television cameras on so they can be the outraged citizens," Hawkings says. "Beyond that, the members of Congress want to find out that there's a pattern here … because they think they have some evidence that this was not an isolated incident."
What to expect at the first hearing today, called by House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.): "Essentially what he wants to do is use the hearing to sort of buttress the Republican argument that the federal bureaucracy is bloated, out of control, out of touch, and spends too much and wastes too much," Hawkings says. "It should be noted, though, that the amount of money that was spent on this, while egregious, was less than a drop in the bucket in comparison to the amount that federal budget cutters are looking for."
On the possible fallout from accusations that U.S. Secret Service agents were involved with prostitutes while accompanying the president in Colombia: "I think there will probably be some more hearings on this one too," Hawkings says. "There are some who are saying that this is a little overblown … that it is an outlier incident. If it's not, and if other evidence turns up that this was a pattern of the way Secret Service agents behaved on overseas travel, then Mark Sullivan, head of the Secret Service, might find himself in the same position as Martha Johnson did a couple of weeks ago."
Whether either of these scandals will have political implications for President Obama: "Neither of these are really seen as a partisan agency … these are career officers," Hawkings says. "I don't think this is going to be tied to the president himself, but it is going to be tied to the Republican narrative that the bureaucracy itself, no matter which party is in control, has gotten a little bit out of control."