Rep. Wolf Ups the Ante on OSTP's China Activities

Rep. Wolf Ups the Ante on OSTP's China Activities

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today asking him to hold Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren “to full account” for discussing science and technology cooperation with China in violation of the law.

The letter follows on a Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding earlier this week that Holdren’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) violated section 1340 of the FY2011 Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Resolution (CR) by holding meetings in May with the Chinese. GAO found that the meetings violated the law’s prohibition on OSTP or NASA spending any funds provided by the law to engage in such activities. OSTP spent $3,500 on the meetings, and since they violated the CR, they were not appropriated. Under the Anti-Deficiency Act, federal departments and agencies cannot obligate funds they do not have, and therefore GAO determined that OSTP violated the Anti-Deficiency Act.

Rep. Wolf also wrote to Holdren today, noting that the two had spoken on the phone yesterday wherein Holdren promised Rep. Wolf that either he or the White House General Counsel would call Rep. Wolf back by the end of the day, but no call was received. Rep. Wolf chairs the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that funds OSTP as well as NASA.

In his letter to the Attorney General, Rep. Wolf asked the Justice Department to rescind a September 19 memorandum it issued that argued section 1340 infringed upon the President’s constitutional power to conduct foreign policy, and to “hold Dr. Holdren to full account for his violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act by ensuring that he complies with all reporting requirements and other provisions of that law.”

In its letter to Rep. Wolf, GAO insisted that “It is not our role nor within our province to opine upon or adjudicate the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes,” but “In our view, legislation that was passed by Congress and signed by the President … is entitled to a heavy presumption in favor of constitutionality.”

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