A kindler, gentler Darrell Issa?

posted at 4:31 pm on February 5, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

So says The Hill, and Issa himself.  After the status-quo election in November and facing a term limit on his chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee, Issa wants to reach across the aisle more in the 113th Congress than in the 112th:

Issa, who has relentlessly investigated the Obama administration and led the House’s charge to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, is term-limited as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman. Rep. John Mica (Fla.) will become the panel’s top Republican in 2015.

The California Republican has signaled a marked shift in the tenor he wants his committee to take this Congress, trading in the political grenades for olive branches in the form of weekly bipartisan meetings. He has pivoted away from the heated and divisive investigations that grabbed headlines to potentially long-term legislative reforms that could have wide-reaching effects.

“We’re going to have to work together in a way that we did not in the previous Congress,” said Issa at the committee’s first organizational meeting.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who has lodged some of the most vocal complaints about Issa’s treatment of Democrats on the panel, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the chairman’s shift.

“I welcome the new Darrell and I will work with him if he wants to work across the aisle,” said Connolly, who has been working with Issa’s staff on an information technology (IT) bill.

What specifically does this mean in practice, though?  Issa and House Republicans are still pursuing a contempt citation against the Department of Justice and Eric Holder over the claim of executive privilege on Operation Fast and Furious.  Both sides have recently signaled more cooperation, though, and a resolution that produces the needed documents could bring the investigation to a close this year.

With Obama re-elected, though, and Republicans losing a few seats in both chambers, there doesn’t appear to be an appetite for partisan warfare through Oversight.  Issa released an agenda this year filled with bipartisan or nonpartisan issues — such as HGH usage in the NFL and data transparency.  He has also worked with ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings to produce more than a half-dozen joint press releases for Oversight in the last few weeks, a major change in public posture.

The tenor of the 113th so far seems to be focused on finding ways to make deals and address issues, rather than engage in public posturing.  Issa appears — so far at least — to have joined that recasting of the GOP to solution providers rather than aggressive opposition.  While that might bode well for producing budgets and addressing long-standing security issues, it might not bode well for actual oversight of the Obama administration, unless Issa is hoping to woo Cummings and his side into taking a tougher look at the White House now that Obama doesn’t have to worry about running for office again.  If so, we’ll see if Issa can trap more flies with honey rather than vinegar.


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