The chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Sunday called for an investigation into the General Services Administration’s operations in all 10 regions and said that while President Obama isn’t responsible for the GSA’s wasteful spending, he should be held accountable.
“The buck stops at the president's desk. He's the leader of our government. He now has to be acting with a kind of relentless determination to find out exactly what happened, and to make sure that people who work for him at the Secret Service and GSA and everywhere else in the government don't let anything like this happen again,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on Fox News Sunday.
The GSA has come under scrutiny since the revelation that thousands in taxpayer dollars were spent to fund lavish conferences, travel and entertainment for GSA staff working in the GSA’s ninth region.
Lieberman said he’s joining the panel's ranking Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, in calling for an expansion of the investigation. He also said he’ll be holding hearings with GSA leadership “to make sure they take a good, hard look at the way that the GSA does business.”
Lawmakers also said on Sunday that they expect more Secret Service employees to leave amid a widening investigation of a prostitution scandal involving agents sent to Colombia ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama.
Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said they expect the investigation to extend beyond the six agents who have already left.
“I think we have some bad actors here,” Cummings of Maryland said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” today. “I don’t think that we judge the Secret Service by its weakest link.”
The Secret Service and Congress are investigating an incident involving agents who allegedly consorted with prostitutes at their hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, while preparing security for Obama’s visit this month for a trade and economic summit. Six employees left the agency following the incident, which raised questions in Congress about whether it was an isolated incident or a glimpse of broader misconduct that might have put the president’s security at risk.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said he believes the prostitution scandal is an isolated incident, not evidence of agency-wide problems.
“What we’re seeing is an aberration,” Coburn said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “This is an outlier for the Secret Service, and I think we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
The misconduct was discovered after a prostitute refused to leave a Secret Service agent’s hotel because of a dispute over her fee. The woman, whose identity hasn’t been disclosed, told the New York Times that the agent offered her $30 after she spent the night with him, less than she expected.
Three Secret Service employees resigned April 20, bringing to six the number the agency has said are leaving voluntarily or being forced out, Paul S. Morrissey, a Secret Service assistant director, said in an April 20 statement. King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he expects others to leave as a result of the scandal.
“I think others will be leaving shortly,” Cummings added.
Obama has been briefed on the investigation into the allegations, according to an administration official who wasn’t authorized to speak about a private meeting. The Defense Department is conducting a separate probe involving its personnel.
Confidence in Sullivan
Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said the president continues to have confidence in Mark Sullivan, director of the Secret Service.
“I must say in my experience the Secret Service has been completely professional,” Axelrod said on CNN. “I always felt like they were willing to do anything to protect the president and the people around the president, and so this was really disappointing.”
Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the panel, have asked Sullivan to check records to see if there is evidence of past indiscretions that could be part of a pattern.
Collins and Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, said the prostitution scandal may speak to the need for more women in the Secret Service. She said 11 percent of its agents are women.
“I can’t help but keep asking this question, where are the women?” Maloney said during on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” program. “We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women.”
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