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The move of the Republican caucus to limit senatorial investigation comes at an inauspicious time. Before a congressional election, the majority party's concealment of its record, even on the plea of economy, has a suspicious appearance which is scarcely a political asset.
For fear of being charged with protecting official wrongdoing, most senators have heretofore voted for investigations when irregularity was hinted at. Such an attitude has given the members of the vast bureaucracy, which is the executive arm of the government, a healthy respect for efficiency. Under the Republican plan, proposed investigations must run the gamut of the Committees concerned before being referred to the Senate. Although Senators need not follow the committee recommendation, the temptation exists to use this report as an excuse for quashing an unpleasant inquiry.
A continuation of senatorial readiness to investigate thoroughly every branch of the executive is desirable. Of the many balances set up by the constitution, the most effective is the opposition's alertness to discover signs of corruption in the ruling party. To impede the operation of this check does not lead to good government.
Admittedly, the system is uneconomical and inefficient, but it is the single method of maintaining economy and efficiency. In business, a board of directors which does not trust its executives discharges them; in politics, hiring and firing can be accomplished only at stated periods in attenuated fashion. As Teapot Dome and the Aluminum case have proven, the best available agency for business-like supervision of the executive is the Congressional inquiry.
Popular control of governmental bureaucrats is a democratic essential only to be secured by constant vigilance. Investigations are the price of that modern luxury, self-government.
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