February 12, 2009

Whitehouse to Lead Judiciary, Environment Oversight Subcommittees

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will chair subcommittees focusing on oversight in both the Judiciary and Environment and Public Works Committees in the 111th Congress.

Whitehouse, who played an active role in Congressional inquiries into politicization at the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush Administration, expects to leverage his new positions to better understand the damage of the last eight years and help the Obama Administration bring badly-needed change to the country. On the Judiciary Committee, his new role will also encompass bankruptcy law, an area where Whitehouse has already proposed consumer-oriented reform.

“The Bush Administration left many of our government’s most vital institutions in ruins, their traditions and practices subverted and their employees’ morale badly eroded. We need to get to the truth and repair what was broken,” Whitehouse said. “In the Judiciary Committee, I will also use this opportunity to continue pushing for bankruptcy reforms that will keep credit card interest rates and fees more reasonable.”

In the Judiciary Committee, Whitehouse helped lead the investigation into widespread political interference at the Bush Administration’s Justice Department, including the unprecedented firing of federal prosecutors and the use of Office of Legal Counsel opinions to justify torture of suspected terrorists. As chair of the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, he will oversee a broad portfolio including oversight of Justice Department grant programs, government waste and fraud, and administrative and judicial procedures.

Whitehouse’s subcommittee will also have jurisdiction over bankruptcy law, giving him a broader platform from which to press for reforms to the Bankruptcy Code that would help consumers struggling under the weight of high-cost debt. Whitehouse is the author of legislation that would disallow such debt in bankruptcy proceedings, aimed at pressuring lenders to keep rates low, and has cosponsored a bill authored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to give homeowners new leverage in staving off foreclosure and keeping their homes in the event of bankruptcy.

As Chairman of the EPW Subcommittee on Oversight, Whitehouse will be responsible for oversight of EPA and programs under the jurisdiction of the EPW Committee. Whitehouse plans to use the subcommittee to explore ways to restore scientific integrity at the EPA and other federal agencies focused on the environment, and to strengthen environmental protections by once again making the regulatory process more transparent. Last July, Whitehouse joined EPW Committee Chairman Boxer and other committee members to call for the resignation of then-EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson following allegations of political interference at EPA.


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