The chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are heading down to the Gulf Coast late this weekend to assess the government's response to the oil spill.
The trek by Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) and Darrell Issa (R-Cali) is primarily of the fact-finding variety. But aides on the Hill don't dispute the idea that this trip could compel the two lawmakers (respectively the sheriffs on the government watchdog beat) to pursue more critical investigations and hearings into the oil spill response going forward.
The Oversight Committee already has launched an investigation into the Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service, which was chiefly responsible for the regulatory structures responsible for offshore drilling. The Department of Justice, meanwhile, has begun investigating the steps made by BP both before and after the spill began. The role Towns and Issa could theoretically play is to fill in the blanks about the shortcomings or pitfalls in the government's coordinated response to the crisis,
"Given the committee's broad jurisdiction," said a statement provided by the committee, "the chairman is interested in the ongoing coordination between federal agencies as they respond to the disaster. The chairman also wants to ensure that BP is paying claims to those who lost employment as a result of the spill in a timely manner... Questions will also be raised about the current plan to respond to the spill and whether the federal government and BP have the adequate tools to contain the spill in a timely manner."
The two lawmakers will be arriving in the Gulf on Sunday night and will tour affected areas on Monday. Issa's office tells the Huffington Post that their investigators will remain in the area until Thursday.