The Probing Congress: How Both Parties Can Lead a Renaissance of Oversight

We are colleagues at our firm, even next-door neighbors at the office. We are friends, but we are also partisans. One of us is a conservative Republican, the other a liberal Democrat.

We originally thought about writing a post-election analysis focusing on some major issues that could produce historic legislation with bipartisan support in the 114th Congress, but, unsurprisingly, we couldn't agree on much.

We couldn't even agree that to get a real tax reform bill through, it might need to include both a lowering of the corporate tax rate and an increase in the minimum wage. We also couldn't agree on what the essential components of an immigration reform bill should look like.

But we kept the conversation going and, ultimately, went back to our congressional roots.

In different eras, we were both chairmen of panels that had oversight of the executive branch. We know the instant power that comes when you pick up that gavel, but we also recognize the difference between having power and having credibility.

Making old laws work instead of promulgating new laws is, at once, both a conservative and liberal idea. Whatever one's ideology, whether you embrace the Tea Party mantra of reducing the size and scope of the federal government or the liberal one that the federal government is a force for change and advancement, there is plenty of room to agree on how to make government work better for all people. But the only really credible congressional investigations are those that are jointly led by a chair and a ranking member for each committee or subcommittee.

We ourselves had many experiences where, as chairmen, we worked closely with the ranking member from the other party to create investigations and carry them out. And in some instances, the hearings and accompanying investigative work led to solid legislation to resolve issues.

In President Obama's last two years in office, it is widely believed the Republican controlled Congress will continue with old investigations -- like the Affordable Care Act -- and launch new ones -- like the soon-to-be announced EPA environmental regulations. But what is uncertain is whether this Congress will be known as the one that got members working together again.

So, our recommendation to the 114th Congress is simple -- agree that the Congress should be measured on how it makes government work better, come up with an agenda that features a thorough examination of important programs, determine if they work or don't work, get the hearings on the calendar and, lastly, agree to check demagoguery at the door.

Toby Moffett & David McIntosh