A Right to “Know” or a Right to “No”? Examining Congressional Oversight of the Executive Branch

There is a constant tension between Congress’ constitutional responsibility to oversee the workings of the executive branch and the president’s claims of executive privilege and deliberative process in order to protect the inner workings of the White House. The frequency and force of these claims, as well as Congress’ willingness and ability to push back, varies from Congress to Congress based on a host of elements. With a new president and a new Congress set to begin in 2017, it is a meaningful time to review the rights, rules, and principles that govern this inter-branch tug of war, and to contemplate the path forward.

On October 25, two panels of distinguished scholars and practitioners discussed these pressing issues. Is reform necessary to ensure that Congress can access the information it needs to check the executive branch effectively? How should Congress best be held accountable for using its oversight powers and tools appropriately?

PANEL 1: Recent Developments in the Law on Congressional Access to Information (C-SPAN video here)

Steve Castor, Deputy General Counsel, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Ronald Weich, Dean, University of Baltimore School of Law
Andrew Wright, Associate Professor, Savannah School of Law
Linda Gustitus (moderator), former Staff Director, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

PANEL 2: Is the Current System Working or Does it Need Reform? (C-SPAN video here)

Josh Chafetz, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
David Hayes, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Law, Stanford Law School
Kerry Kircher, former General Counsel, House of Representatives
Mort Rosenberg, former Specialist in American Public Law, Congressional Research Service
Jocelyn Benson (moderator), Director, Levin Center at Wayne Law

Also check out a few photos here. The event was cosponsored by The Constitution Project and Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit.

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