Kaine: Senate not doing its oversight job

Mike Still • Apr 26, 2019 at 3:00 PM

St. PAUL – Despite a good working relationship with the Senate Majority Leader, Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine says that body is not doing its job when it comes to oversight of the White House.

Kaine, on a two-day sweep though Southwest Virginia to hear about economic development, education and drug addiction issues in the region, toured a materials research lab in the Lonesome Pine Technology Park and later met with Eastside High School students who participated in a satellite launch at NASA’s Wallops Island launch facility.

During a session with reporters, Kaine criticized how a Republican-controlled Senate has shown little interest in examining various concerns over the Trump administration’s conduct in a wide range of incidents and issues, some of which were raised when former special counsel Robert Mueller released his investigation report in March.

“I have a personal and very solid relationship with Senator McConnell,” Kaine said of Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate’s majority leader. “We struck up a good relationship right when I came into the Senate and just recently, he asked me to go give a speech at the University of Louisville.”

Kaine said he had gotten McConnell’s support on a bill to ensure federal employees’ back pay after the federal shutdown in 2018, but he questioned how the Senate now operated under McConnell.

“I am disappointed that debate gets shut down on the floor,” Kaine said. “We don’t get meaningful amendments, and I know what many of my Republican colleagues think about activities of the president because they tell me.”

Kaine said those concerns extend beyond the Mueller report. The administration has refused to answer about recently reported administration offered to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia without telling senators.

“When I’m on a committee where it’s a Republican majority committee and there’s a Republican chair, I’d like the chair to say, wait a minute, we’re the Unites States Senate and we’re entitled to answers,” Kaine said. “I’ve been unhappy with the Republicans’ unwillingness to stand up and just demand basic oversight. The Senate now is not performing the oversight it should be.”

No president, Democrat or Republican, should be given a free hand, Kaine added.

Kaine also discussed former Vice President Joe Biden’s Thursday announcement of his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“I thought it was a very strong video, and he basically was laying down what he thinks is at stake,” Kaine said of Biden’s video announcement. “There’s a lot of issues at stake, but there’s also a big issue of who we are as a nation.”

Kaine said the American public can expect to hear more details about Biden’s policy stances in coming days.

“I’m a long, long way from doing any endorsement,” Kaine, the Democrat vice-presidential candidate in 2016, said of the 21-candidate Democratic presidential field. “I know so many of the people who are running. I can make the case for many of them, but I want to see how the race develops.”

Biden has been the subject of criticism recently because of his role in the Senate Judiciary Committee when it examined Clarence Thomas for nomination to the Supreme Court. A National Public Radio report Thursday said Biden had called Anita Hill – the attorney and law professor who testified against him on allegations of sexual misconduct before Biden’s committee – to apologize.

Hill, according to the NPR report, said Biden needs to go beyond his apology to her and explain and apologize to all victims of sexual misconduct.

“It’s a fair comment, fair question to ask,” Kaine said. “This is his case to make, not mine. I’m sure he will come back and say ‘hey, I was also involved in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.”

“Any of us who have been in elected office, and that includes all of the candidates running, there’ll be things they will brag about and there’ll be questions they have to answer,” Kaine said. “That’s just part of being a candidate.”

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