Issa builds list of investigations

Democrats have seen Darrell Issa, the incoming chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as their worst nightmare. Issa has repeatedly pledged to use his committee to scour the Obama administration for corruption and incompetence, and Issa says he has his work cut out for him. His claim from almost two months ago that the current administration was the “most corrupt” he had ever seen got a lot of attention this week as Issa clarified that he meant in the way money got used within the bureaucracy — the “walking around money” Congress gave the executive branch:

Politico also reports that Issa has built a preliminary list of investigations that he will have Oversight conduct into White House actions over the past two years. None of them will surprise anyone, but the list seems perhaps a little more modest than Democrats may have feared:

According to an outline of the committee’s hearing topics obtained by POLITICO, the House Oversight and Government Reform is also planning to investigate how regulation impacts job creation, the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the foreclosure crisis; recalls at the Food and Drug Administration and the failure of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to agree on the causes of the market meltdown. …

Despite his bombastic reputation, Issa has tried to project a more subtle image in the days leading up to his takeover of the committee. He’s trying to project an image of being a stickler for government waste and not a partisan bomb thrower with an eye fixed on ruining the Obama administration. A look at the preliminary hearing schedule illustrates that Issa plans to stay away from hurling subpoenas at the White House.

Stimulus oversight isn’t among the early hearings, which may come as a surprise since Issa recently met with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss stimulus spending. In one of his three Sunday show appearances this week, Issa even said Congress should share in the blame for what he considers the mismanagement of the stimulus.

Still, the Issa agenda will take aim at what he believes are missteps by the administration.

In investigating the impact of regulation on job creation, the committee plans to ask why the economy hasn’t “created the private sector jobs the president has promised,” and he’s calling in business leaders to explain “about the government regulations that are doing the most harm to job creation efforts.”

It looks as though Issa plans to start on issues where he can get bipartisan consensus for probes and work on building some momentum.  I’m a little surprised that Issa hasn’t included, even in that sense, a probe of the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin and the expanded use of “czars” by this administration.  The termination of the IG for his opposition to a deal cut with an Obama ally amounts to a rebuke of Congress, which supposedly gave IGs job security so that they would do their work without fear of retribution from the executive branch.  The “czars” also represent an end run in at least some cases around Congressional oversight.

If a bipartisan consensus cannot be generated to protect Congress’ constitutional privileges, then perhaps bipartisanship in this context is overrated, and Issa should consider expanding his definition of “corruption” a little wider.

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