By Molly K. Hooper - 09/21/10 10:00 AM EDT
House Republican lawmakers on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee anticipate a ramp-up of investigations next year on bailout measures, the economic stimulus and healthcare.
“Given the accelerated pace of federal dollars going into the bureaucracy, the pace of oversight must also keep up with that,” Republican committee aide Kurt Bardella said.
Issa has irritated House Democrats with his aggressive style, and political analysts say an Issa chairmanship would likely be a nightmare for the Obama administration.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who sits on the Oversight panel, said, “No doubt about it, there needs to be a lot more examination of the TARP, stimulus and Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac].”
Issa has the largest budget of any Republican in the lower chamber except Minority Leader John Boehner’s (Ohio) office. If Issa became chairman, his staff would likely double in size. In May of last year, Issa had 37 staffers.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer said, “Darrell Issa has been clear all along: If Republicans get their way, Chairman Issa would ignore the gross misconduct from Republicans’ powerful corporate special interest backers like British Petroleum, and would use subpoenas and an 80-person staff to launch taxpayer-funded witch-hunts against the president.”
Panel Republicans last month asked the public to send in pictures of road signs noting projects carried out with stimulus dollars. It generated hundreds of responses and photos, which are available on the minority party’s website.
In a release, Issa said, “This project harnesses the American public’s help in getting answers about why the administration has insisted on wasting potentially 192 million taxpayer dollars on pro-stimulus advertising even as the spending splurge has failed to meet the president’s own sales pitches.”
“If there is evidence that anyone is misusing taxpayer dollars, that’s something that’s our responsibility to look at. That’s why the Oversight Committee exists, whether that be ACORN or General Motors or anyone that was a part of TARP, anyone that’s receiving stimulus dollars. There is no focus on any one entity,” Bardella said.
Democrats fear that if Issa gets the committee gavel, he would engage in partisan witch-hunts, reminiscent of the days when then-committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) tied up the Clinton administration with subpoena after subpoena.
But Issa has no intention of following Burton’s lead, Bardella said, pointing out that the California lawmaker has focused on a range of issues, including the government’s handling of the salmonella outbreak in eggs and a recall of children’s Motrin.
Issa’s committee has a good working relationship with media outlets, a must for an Oversight Committee that is in the minority.
Earlier this year, after it was noted that Issa doesn’t have subpoena power, Issa told a reporter, “But I have you.”
The head of the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight (POGO) says that a Chairman Issa would launch more thoughtful and productive investigations than Burton did.
“We see him doing much more serious inquiries,” POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said.
“There’s no doubt that he’s partisan. I think Democrats minimize his work as just being partisan, but I firmly believe that he is genuine in his interest in good government and transparency. I think he would be really aggressive,” Brian added.
Issa believes that that casework could be lightened if the 74 inspectors general at governmental agencies had the power to subpoena testimony. Only the Department of Defense inspector general has subpoena authority.
In a recent appearance on CNN, Issa said, “We need the IGs to get answers. I don’t need to be looking at every failure of government, I need to be looking where failure of government needs reform. You bring it back to Congress and we fix it.”
During a 2009 interview with The Hill, Issa said, “My job really is to be that honesty check. I don’t make policy, but I do fact-check the policy made by the majority to see whether they’re living up to their promises.”