By Mike Lillis
The incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday that he won't investigate the Obama administration for offering a job to a Democratic House member to keep him out of a Senate race.
Instead, Rep. Darrell Issa said that the problem transcends any one administration. The California Republican indicated he wants to look at the issue more broadly, even hinting that his investigation could lead back into a closer look at the Bush administration.
"We've discovered the problem is bigger than that — it's bigger than President Obama," Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union." "Bush's people said, 'We did the same thing.' "
In February, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) revealed the White House had dangled a job to dissuade him from running against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in November's midterms. Sestak won the primary contest, but lost the larger election to Republican Pat Toomey.
In response, Issa's campaign office sent a May e-mail suggesting the episode was "Obama's Watergate."
"This may be the way business is done in Chicago, but it’s not the way things are done in our nation’s capitol [sic] and I am intent on getting to the bottom of this," the e-mail said.
On Sunday, however, Issa backtracked, arguing that the episode is evidence of a broader problem that needs examining.
"When you offer a position, paid or unpaid, existing statute makes it illegal to offer that job in return for affecting an election," Issa said. "That is something we've got to get to stop."
Asked directly if he will investigate the Sestak case, Issa said, "No."
"Once we knew, as we discovered, that it turns out that Republicans and previous administrations thought it was OK — in spite of the absolute black and white letter of the law — it got bigger, it got bigger than President Obama."
Issa continued, "We know now that there's a problem in government that executive branch people think it's OK to do this. It's not OK. Do we need to get this administration to stop doing it? Do we need, if anything, to find out who it was in the Bush administration who thought it was OK to use your taxpayer dollars to affect a Republican primary?
"It was wrong if it's done in the Bush administration," Issa said. "It's wrong in the Obama administration."