The Ticket

GSA spending scandal will be dissected by lawmakers during next week’s hearings

The Ticket

(GSA video clip via House Government and Oversight Committee)

The scandal over the General Services Administration's (GSA) lavish conference spending using the taxpayers' dime hits the congressional outrage phase next week as members return from recess to multiple congressional hearings on the scandal.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have all scheduled hearings complete with witnesses. (Additional hearings are also possible.) As of Wednesday morning, a total of eight GSA employees had been disciplined, fired or resigned in connection to the scandal.

The hearings will give the scandal even more attention, as angry members of Congress grill disgraced GSA personnel and others in the public eye. The GSA spent around $830,000 in taxpayer money on a three-day internal conference in 2010 featuring a mind reader, commemorative coin displays and $75,000 training exercises.

[Related: Records show GSA's Johnson in Va. and Ore., not with Solyndra in Calif.]

Members of Congress are eager for the opportunity to stand up to government waste and abuse, perform their due diligence on the scandal and potentially position themselves to do something beyond the hearing.

Of course, there will also be some politics on display.

Expect Republicans to use the scandal to paint the Obama administration as a bastion of corruption. Democrats are likely to harken back to the soaring GSA conference costs under George W. Bush and ask why, if Republicans are crying foul about oversight, the Office of the Inspector General uncovered this scandal before the Republicans who were tasked with oversight did.

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"They [Republicans] are clamoring to take credit by rushing to the cameras," a Democratic staffer and ally of the White House, who requested anonymity due to the ongoing nature of the situation, told Yahoo News Wednesday. "Maybe they'll now realize proper oversight involves a serious investigation, not watching themselves on television."

California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who has rankled the White House by aiming his House Oversight Committee at the Obama administration, is now expected to take the GOP lead in the scandal's aftermath, though Democrats note the Office of the Inspector General report is already complete.

[Read the full report here via the OIG.]

The committee didn't immediately respond to Yahoo's request for comment Wednesday.

In addition to Issa, other representatives have been outspoken in the wake of the scandal and are expected to be major voices during next week's hearings: Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) of House Transportation & Infrastructure, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has held past hearings on GSA waste, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini in an online video statement Tuesday expressed horror over the scandal, calling it "completely unacceptable," adding that employees are "shocked" and "deeply saddened" by the events.

Tangherlini said that as a result of the report, the agency is conducting a review of its conferences and events, evaluating how officials use resources and identifying ways to increase spending efficiency. And it closed the "Hats Off" stores, an incentive program where employees were awarded expensive items like iPods and digital cameras, often violating the GSA's $99 limit on gifts.

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