By PATRICK O'CONNOR
Deficit reduction has become a constant refrain for the speaker and other Democratic leaders.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put pledge to paper on Thursday by sending her committee chairmen a letter asking them to 'conduct rigorous oversight of all aspects of federal spending' in order to reduce an escalating budget deficit.
Deficit reduction has become a constant refrain for the speaker and other Democratic leaders in the weeks leading up to passage of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. The letter comes a week before President Barack Obama sends Congress his first budget blueprint.
'As discussed in the chairmen's meeting and in the caucus earlier this month, I am asking each chairman to schedule committee hearings to examine the budgets of programs in the departments or agencies under their jurisdiction,' Pelosi wrote.
This review process builds on a change to House rules -- authored by Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) -- which requires House committees to hold hearings on waste and fraud in federal spending.
The aim is to 'scrutinize our budget, promote efficiency and reduce waste in government spending,' the speaker wrote. 'I request that you prepare a schedule for these committee hearings in concert with your regular hearing schedule so this thorough review can begin without delay.'
The hearings must be scheduled no later than March 13, as Congress considers Obama's first annual budget blueprint.