Rep. Issa's Inconsistent Pledges For The House Oversight Committee
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is sending mixed messages about how he'll wield the chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee when Republicans assume the majority in January.
As chairman, Issa could go two ways. He could practice genuinely nonpartisan oversight, or he could use the cloak of his committee's mandate to obstruct the Democratic administration by launching hundreds of time- and resource-wasting investigations. Issa has been teasing both possibilities, alternately declaring war on the administration and then touting bipartisan cooperation.
A perfect illustration? In mid-October, Issa said that "stopping Obama" — whom he called "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times" — was "critical," and declared that his job as committee chairman would be "getting America back to the center right where it exists." Mere weeks later, Issa walked back the adversarial rhetoric, claiming that he doesn't think the president is "personally corrupt" and promising to use his position to investigate both Republicans and Democrats.
Issa vacillates between lofty, nonpartisan enforcer and perpetrator of the very sort of wasteful, partisan actions that his committee is tasked with rooting out and eliminating — a duality that uncannily mirrors his history as both an alleged car thief and the owner of a multi-million dollar car alarm company.
But Issa's cooperative overtones don't drown out his antagonistic base notes, and his actions may speak louder than the friendly half of his words. Despite his admonishment that oversight shouldn't be used as a "political weapon," Issa has already reveled in his license to harass the administration. While ranking minority member on the Oversight Committee, Issa sent the administration hundreds of letters demanding information. When he assumes the chairmanship, Issa gains subpoena power, and those irritating but ignorable letters could well become a mountain of legally compelling subpoenas.
Furthermore, in an interview with Politico, Issa said that he's aiming for the ambitious goal of holding "seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks:"
To give an idea of how expansive Issa's oversight plans are, look at the record of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) when he chaired the oversight committee during in the 110th Congress during George W. Bush's presidency. Waxman held 203 oversight hearings in two years; Issa has signaled he's prepared to hold about 280 in just one year.
It looks like Issa's committee will be very active, to say the least. Despite Issa's attempt to convince the public that that activity will be directed toward both parties — using, as Talking Points Memo terms it, an "apparent charm offensive" — Issa has signaled that he will use the power of the Oversight Committee chairmanship primarily for partisan gain.