Congress investigations are not limited to oversight of the judiciary or executive, but other matters of national interest that require future legislation. Some of the matters that Congress has investigated include the activities of Ku Klux Klan, Interstate commerce, Vietnam War, organized crime and Wall Street banking practices (Hames and Ekern 101). Congress investigated President Nixon conduct in Watergate scandal that led to resignation of the President. Generally, the power of Congress to investigate and obtain information is broad and Supreme Court has affirmed that such power is essential to the legislative function.
The Congress investigations powers were confirmed in the case of McGrain v Daugherty that arose from Harding Administration scandals. The Senate Committee investigated the failure of the Attorney General to prosecute violations of federal law. Mally S. Daugherty, the Attorney General did not honor Congress summons and applied to US District Court in Ohio for writ of habeas corpus. The District Court restrained the Senate from arresting Daugherty, but the Supreme Court reversed the opinion by outlining that that Congress had power to compel testimony that could be used for legislative purposes (Rosenberg 3). The Supreme Court held that a ‘legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information respecting the conditions which the legislation will affect or change’. In the case of Watkins v United States, the court held that the power of inquiry was broad and inherent in the legislative process thus encompasses inquiries related to administration of current statutes and proposed or needed statutes (Rosenberg 3). The Courts also extended the investigative powers from wrongdoing to include corruption, wastage, inefficiency in Federal Government departments thus allowing Congress to inquire and publicize corruption and other malpractices in government agencies (Rosenberg 3).