Rep. Issa's Inconsistent Pledges For The House Oversight Committee

November 09, 2010 2:45 pm ET

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is expected to become chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee when Republicans assume majority party status next year. As chairman, he will gain the power to harass the administration via subpoenas and investigations. In recent media appearances, Issa has pledged to work with the administration and to avoid using the Oversight Committee for political ends, but that cooperative tone runs contrary to numerous previous statements in which Issa signaled his intention to interfere with President Obama's initiatives and act to return the country's politics to a "center right" alignment.

Dr. Jekyll: Issa Pledges Not to Abuse Subpoena Power

Issa: "Oversight Is Not And Should Not Be Used As A Political Weapon Against The Occupant Of The Oval Office." In an op-ed in USA Today, Rep. Issa wrote:  

Bottom line: Nothing could be more counterproductive and destructive to this effort than embarking on a series of misguided and politically motivated investigations.

Oversight is not and should not be used as a political weapon against the occupant of the Oval Office. It should not be an instrument of fear or the exclusive domain of the party that controls Congress. Oversight should make the people's government work better for them. Oversight should force the bureaucracy to identify and correct waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement. Oversight should leverage the resources of the 21st century to make the federal bureaucracy transparent, accountable and a model of efficiency and effectiveness.

[USA Today, 10/10/10]

Issa: "My Job Is Not To Bring Down The President. My Job Is To Make The President A Success." From a November 3 Politico article: "'I want to prove the pundits wrong. My job is not to bring down the president. My job is to make the president a success,' Issa said on a midnight conference call with reporters, just after House Minority Leader John Boehner's victory speech." [Politico, 11/3/10]

Issa On His Presumptive Subpoena Power: "I Don't Expect To Use It Often." As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Republicans said they don't anticipate having to use their subpoena power extensively. Cantor said that the GOP's anticipated "leverage" might make subpoenas unnecessary.

Issa said he would use his subpoena power sparingly.

"I don't expect to use it often," Issa said. "I don't expect to use it lightly."

[Los Angeles Times, 10/20/10]

Issa: "The Only Way To Begin This Effort Is Working With The Administration On What Deserves To Be A Bipartisan Effort." In an op-ed in USA Today, Rep. Issa wrote:

No matter who controls the Congress next year, the reality is we have a federal bureaucracy that has been tasked with absorbing, distributing and overseeing trillion dollar bailouts, a trillion dollar stimulus and a trillion dollar health care package.

Whether you agree or disagree with these policies, the result is a federal bureaucracy that has grown in size, scope, authority and responsibility. Oversight, however, has not kept pace with the growth of government. Earl Devaney, whom President Obama appointed to coordinate efforts to weed out waste in the stimulus bill, estimated that 7% of all government spending is lost to fraud. If we ever hope to improve on this or cut other excessive spending, then more rigorous oversight must be a top priority.

The only way to begin this effort is working with the administration on what deserves to be a bipartisan effort.

[USA Today, 10/10/10, emphasis added]

Issa "I Am Committed To Seeking Out The Cooperation And, If He's Willing, A Partnership With Our President To Conduct Rigorous Oversight That Leads To Bipartisan Reforms." In an op-ed in USA Today, Rep. Issa wrote:

Regardless of whether I serve on this committee as chairman or ranking member next Congress, I will continue efforts to reform a bureaucracy that is overrun with waste, fraud, and mismanagement and leave a legacy behind that make government work better for all Americans.

It's very clear that the American people do not want a divided government hell-bent on fighting one another in an attempt to score cheap political points. They want a government with checks and balances, run by adults who are up to the task of solving the very real problems confronting our nation.

Republicans and Democrats have very different and fundamental views on the federal government's role in our lives. And while we may disagree on what policies should be advanced to address the challenges of today, that doesn't mean we cannot agree and work together on what we already know is broken. That doesn't mean we can't be better stewards of the taxpayers' dollars.

I am committed to seeking out the cooperation and, if he's willing, a partnership with our president to conduct rigorous oversight that leads to bipartisan reforms and, ultimately, more transparency and accountability to government. The enemy isn't Republicans or Democrats. It's the bureaucracy.

[USA Today, 10/10/10, emphasis added]

Issa Announced Bipartisan Transparency Caucus Along With Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). From a press release issued via the House Oversight Committee Republicans' website:

Today, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) announced the formation of the bipartisan Transparency Caucus, which will serve as a resource for Members of Congress on bipartisan open government initiatives.


"Mr. Issa and I strongly believe that an open and accountable government should not be a partisan issue," said Rep. Quigley. "Democrats and Republicans alike should serve and be accountable to the people, not a special interest. We need to work together if we're going to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly and lawmakers are operating honestly and effectively."

[, 3/24/10]

Issa: "Congress And The Administration Must Work Together To Fix Broken Government Agencies Like The SEC." On May 18, 2010, House Oversight Committee ranking member Darrell Issa released a report highlighting systemic problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Commenting on the report, Issa said, "To put our economy back on track, Congress and the Administration must work together to fix broken government agencies like the SEC, instead of enacting measures against businesses that hurt job growth and institutionalize bailouts." [, 5/18/10]

Issa: If The White House "Wants To Work With Us ... We Have A Real Opportunity To Get Some Things Done." From the Wall Street Journal:  

Detractors portray him as a Republican pit bull-in-waiting who will lunge for the Democrats' jugular if his party wins the House in next month's election.

Rep. Darrell Issa wants to bury that notion. He said he won't pepper the Obama White House with subpoenas and showboat hearings if he becomes chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform. "That's not my plan at all," the California Republican said in an interview.

While fellow Republicans promise efforts to repeal the Democrats' health-care overhaul and block funds to undermine the Obama agenda, Mr. Issa talks cooperation. And cooperation, in particular, with President Barack Obama.

"I can continue to be the annoyer in chief if the White House doesn't want to work with us," he said. "But if they do, we have a real opportunity to get some things done."

[Wall Street Journal, 10/22/10; emphasis added]   

Issa: The American People "Want Us To Come Together [With The Administration] After We Agree To Disagree." The Wall Street Journal reported:  

If they recapture the House, Republicans say they are wary of following the example of the class of 1994, which shut down the government in a standoff with President Bill Clinton. Top Republicans contend that passing legislation, or at least making a good faith effort to do so, will earn them more credibility with voters than refusing to waver from purist principles.

"It's pretty clear the American people expect us to use the existing gridlock to create compromise and advance their agenda," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.). "They want us to come together [with the administration] after we agree to disagree."

[Wall Street Journal, 10/19/10; brackets original]   

Issa: "Not A Chance" Republicans Will Impeach Obama. The Hill reported:  

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who would helm the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee if the GOP wins on Election Day, said that his party will not try to bring impeachment charges simply because it disagrees with the president.

"Not a chance at this point. I don't see it happening," Issa said when asked if there is a chance of impeachment on Bloomberg's "Political Capital," which airs over the weekend.

"Look, disagreeing with the president - the president using his authority, maybe even misusing it - that's not what impeachment's for," he added. "Do we have disagreements? Yes. Do we want to see that the president strictly adheres to process? Yes."

[The Hill, 10/22/10]

Mr. Hyde: Issa Relishes Role As "Annoyer-In-Chief"

Issa Predicted "Gridlock" And Called Obama "One Of The Most Corrupt Presidents In Modern Times." From an exchange on The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Do you expect the president to come to you and say, "Okay, you know, you guys won and I lost and I guess the American people are rejecting me. I guess I'm going to have to work with you."  Do you expect him to do that?

ISSA:  No.  I expect him to take a little while to figure out that the Presidential Records Act means they can no longer use Google to do politicking inside the White House in violation of the law.  They can no longer ignore the Hatch Act violations they've been doing.  They can no longer do Sestak, Romanoff type deals with federal taxpayers' dollars.  I expect those changes to happen. And, you know, there will be a certain degree of gridlock as the president adjusts to the fact that he has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.  He has ignored the very laws that he said were so vital when he was a senator.  And, you know, he's going to have to come back a different direction.  Now, at the end of the day John Boehner is going to have to figure out how we have a budget and appropriations.  In my case, I head the committee that's all about making sure that the administration obeys the law, that waste, fraud, and abuse not be tolerated, which obviously is not the case now, but that's the change that's going to happen from my position.  I'm looking forward to it.

[The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/19/10, emphasis added]

Issa: "Stopping Obama" Is "Critical." From an exchange on The Rush Limbaugh Show:

ISSA:  And, Rush, we will stop them.  We haven't had the power to stop them.  But we will stop them.  And the fact is we've gotta be different than we were the last time.  When I led the charge against TARP I was threatened six ways from Sunday because it was the Bush administration that wanted that large amount of walking-around money -


ISSA:  -- based on things they said they were going to do they didn't do.  So it's not just stopping Obama, which is critical.  It's stopping a Washington that in some cases was wrong-minded before Obama got there.

[The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/19/10]

Issa Promises Hundreds Of Hearings. From Politico:

Issa told POLITICO in an interview that he wants each of his seven subcommittees to hold "one or two hearings each week."

"I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks," Issa said.

Issa is also targeting some ambitious up-and-comers like Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio - all aggressive partisans - to chair some of his subcommittees.

He also wants to organize aggressive oversight beyond his committee and plans to refer inquiries to other House panels, drawing even more incoming GOP chairmen to the cause of investigating the executive branch.


But Issa's specific plans bring a certain reality to what has been known for months: Oversight of the Obama administration and congressional Democrats will be a central purpose for the new Republican House.

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.

[Politico, 11/8/10, emphasis added]

As Chairman, Issa Plans To Double His Staff From 40 To Between 70 And 80. Politico reported: "Issa has told Republican leadership that if he becomes chairman, he wants to roughly double his staff from 40 to between 70 and 80. And he is not subtle about what that means for President Barack Obama." [Politico, 6/18/10]  

Issa: "You Know, The Word 'Compromise' Has Been Misunderstood." As reported by ABC's Byron Wolf:  

But Issa has struck a conciliatory tone in recent days. He told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday that Americans expect Congress to "create compromise and advance their agenda. They want us to come together after we agree to disagree."

Compromise, it turns out, is a relative term.

"You know, the word 'compromise' has been misunderstood," he said, clarifying that his job will be "Getting America back to the center right where it exists."

[, 10/20/10, emphasis added]

Issa: I Will Use Subpoena Power "To Get The Very Information That Today The White House Is Either Shredding Or Not Producing." From Politico:  

At a recent speech to Pennsylvania Republicans here, he boasted about what would happen if the GOP wins 39 seats, and he gets the power to subpoena.

"That will make all the difference in the world," he told 400 applauding party members during a dinner at the chocolate-themed Hershey Lodge. "I won't use it to have corporate America live in fear that we're going to subpoena everything. I will use it to get the very information that today the White House is either shredding or not producing."

In other words, Issa wants to be to the Obama administration what Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) was to the Clinton administration - a subpoena machine in search of White House scandals.

[Politico, 6/18/10, emphasis added]  

Issa: "I'm Going To Do A Lot Of Investigating." From the November 7 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: What's the first thing -- what's the big investigation you're looking to hold?

ISSA: Well, I'm going to go after a lot of things, and I'm going to do a lot of investigating. But I think finishing off the Angelo Mozilo, friends of Angelo program, where...

WALLACE: This was Countrywide.

ISSA: Countrywide -- where it created the financial meltdown, in no small part, because Freddie and Fannie took huge amounts of bad loans and are continuing to have losses.

[Fox News Sunday, 11/7/10; accessed via Nexis, emphasis added]

Issa: "I Have Several Hundred Letters, Most Of Which Have Not Been Responded To, That I'm Going To Ask The White House To Dust Off And Answer Our Questions." From an exchange on MSNBC's Daily Rundown:

CHUCK TODD, HOST: Well, let me ask you this, Congressman. What is the first thing you want to investigate? What's the first subpoena you plan on issuing to the White House?

ISSA: Well, I don't have any subpoenas to the White House. I have several hundred letters, most of which have not been responded to, that I'm going to ask the White House to dust off and answer our questions. Some of them are obsolete, but most of them are still important.

[Daily Rundown, 11/3/10, accessed via Nexis]