Former GOP lawmaker: Congress isn't acting independently of the executive branch

Former Rep. Tom Davis chaired the House Oversight committee from 2003 to 2007.

With oversight wars raging on Capitol Hill, the former chairman of a powerful investigative committee said on Wednesday that one of the problems is that in Congress, the president's party has become an "appendage of the executive branch."

Former Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who chaired the House Oversight Committee while Republican President George W. Bush was in office, said he believes that has been the case during the current and previous administration.

"The problem is Congress doesn't act as an independent branch," Davis told ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein on the Powerhouse Politics podcast on Wednesday.

"The president's party is an appendage of the executive branch, and in the Senate in particular," Davis said, adding that the situation precedes President Donald Trump's administration.

Though Davis led the Oversight Committee while a Republican president was in office, he said he did more than play defense for the administration.

"You took pride in having some independence and... taking the job of oversight seriously even when it was a president of your own party in the White House," Karl said.

"I was an institutionalist," Davis responded. "I believed that Congress should be an independent branch and we had certain responsibilities."

Earlier this week, Davis was referenced by House Democrats as an example of bipartisan oversight. On Monday, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee asked for documents relating to the Trump administration's response to hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017. In a letter calling for documents, the lawmakers recalled Davis' compliance with similar requests during investigations of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

"Despite the Oversight Committee’s bipartisan history under Republican Chairman Tom Davis of obtaining tens of thousands of documents from the Bush White House after Hurricane Katrina, Republicans actively blocked all Democratic requests over the past two years while President Trump heaped scorn on the very people who lost thousands of their loved ones," the Democrats wrote.

Davis addressed the possible courses of action the congressional committees could take to further their investigations.

Democrats, he said, are having particular trouble with their inquiries because they are avoiding "the 'I' word."

"If they were to make this an impeachment inquiry, it's very clear they can get the documents and probably very quickly but they don't want to go there," Davis said. "At that point executive privilege, all these other things, for the most part go away. These documents are easily gettable. You can go to the courts and probably get a pretty prompt ruling."

Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.