2012 Congressional Hearing “Season” Par for the Course – Testifying Before Congress, Update October 2012

Special note to readers of Testifying Before Congress and anyone searching for information about congressional hearings, Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgewitnesses and testimony:

The following information is made available to you as part of the author’s promise to provide periodic updates, revisions and additions to the content of the book (see Appendix Thirteen, page 398, “Keep Up-to-Date”), and especially to highlight current and recent events that underscore themes that are advanced in the book or that demonstrate the need for a professional, organized and informed approach to preparing and delivering congressional testimony and serving as a witness.

2012 Congressional Hearing “Season” Par for the Course

Most election years bring less action in Congress, and 2012 has been no different from previous election years in that respect. The impact of the slowed-down pace is evident in the frequency and number of congressional hearings during the first eight months of the second session of the 112th Congress.

As usual, Congress devoted considerable attention in the spring and early summer to annual and routine hearings conducted by the budget and appropriations committees in each chamber, as well as some key traditional authorization hearings.

However, some of the busiest committees had at least a slight downturn in the number of hearings conducted in 2012 to date. For example, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reports that it conducted between 90 and 100 hearings this year compared to 118 in 2011.

For an example of a well-prepared, well-formatted written statement (See Chapter 3, Preparation of Written Testimony), consider the written testimony of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for the record of the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on July 17, 2012.

One of the year’s most contentious hearings took place during a congressional hearing on the “Fast and Furious Scandal”, in an exchange between Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Issa’s committee was at it again in probing the General Service Administration’s lavish spending at a regional conference held in Las Vegas in 2010. The April 16, 2012, hearing included testimony by the agency’s Inspector General, the former agency head, and one of the targets of the oversight and investigative hearing, GSA regional executive, Jeffrey Neeley, who pleaded the Fifth Amendment when asked tough questions by the committee panel.

Chairman John Mica (R-FL) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) of the House Economic Development, Public Buildings & Emergency Management Subcommittee, staged a unique field hearing on June 19, 2012, at an old heating plant in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC, to highlight wasting government assets that could be sold or leased. (See “Congressional Hearing at Heating Plant Property Makes Its Point“.)

In one of the more sensational hearings of the year, JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, testified before the House Committee on Financial Services on June 19, 2012, and apologized for the trading losses incurred by the company in May 2012, while emphasizing that no taxpayer dollars were lost and that the bank remains fiscally sound. (Video on CSPAN.)

Humor in Testimony – Casey Stengel, July 8, 1958, Senate Anti-Trust and Monopoly Subcommittee Hearing, Section 1.100

(Casey Stengel, William Langer)

Senator Langer: I want to know whether you intend to keep on monopolizing the world’s championship in New York City.

Mr. Stengel: Well, I will tell you, I got a little concerned yesterday in the first three innings when I saw the three players I had gotten rid of and I said when I lost nine what am I going to do and when I had a couple of my players I thought so great of that did not do so good up to the sixth inning I was more confused but I finally had to go and call on a young man in Baltimore that we don’t own and the Yankees don’t own him, and he is going pretty good, and I would actually have to tell you that I think we are more the Greta Garbo type now from success. We are being hated I mean, from the ownership and all, we are being hated. Every sport that gets too great or one individual, but if we made 27¢ and it pays to have a winner at home why would you not have a good winner in your own park if you were an owner. That is the result of baseball. An owner gets most of the money at home and it is up to him and his staff to do better or they ought to be discharged.

Senator Langer: That is all, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

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