Issa, House GOP create new oversight sub-panels for TARP, stimulus

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is beefing up the panel in preparation for battle with the Obama administration next year.

Issa on Friday announced the addition of two new subcommittees, one focused on stimulus oversight and government spending and the other on government bailouts of public and private programs.

In all, the panel plans to have seven subcommittees compared to the five that existed before Issa took the helm, according to his spokesman Kurt Bardella, who said the focus and title of the five subcommittees that existed in previous Congresses also likely would change.

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Adding more muscle to the committee is a sign of Issa’s aggressive plans. He has vowed to hold hundreds of hearings and launch new investigations into the bank bailouts, the stimulus funds and possibly the healthcare overhaul.

The announcement comes one day after Democrats elevated Rep. Elijiah Cummings (D-Md.), a shrewd but combative senior Democrat, to the ranking position on the committee, a decision aimed at countering Issa’a strong personality and plans to scrutinize all corners of the administration.

Issa often outmaneuvered and publicly shamed Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), who chaired the committee for the last four years, during several high-profile controversies, including a probe into Countrywide’s mortgage VIP program. Democratic leaders earlier this week pushed Towns out of the position to make way for Cummings to move to the top spot.

At least one of the subcommittees will remain relatively the same in the Congress although its focus will broaden. The National Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittee will become the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations subcommittee and will be chaired by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) will chair the two new subcommittees, the Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending and the TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs, respectively.

Issa said he tapped Chaffez, who was elected in 2008, because he has “redefined how how an incoming member to this committee can be effective and become an instrumental partner.”

“In a short amount of time, Jason has quickly become recognized as one of the smartest, dedicated and capable members of this body and I am thrilled that we ultimately were able to keep him on this Committee and in this crucial role,” he said in a statement.

Issa said he selected Jordan because “no one on our Committee understands better than Jim the connection between government regulation, government spending and the success of our economy.”

“The American people gave Congress a mandate to reduce the size of government waste, government spending and focus on job creation to grow our economy,” Issa said.  “Jim will be on the frontline of this Committee’s effort to oversee how taxpayer dollars are spent, improving government accountability and transparency while developing key initiatives to help move our economy forward.”

For his part, McHenry will focus on making the “federal bureaucracy more accountable for how it spends the American people’s money,” Issa said, noting that the panel would focus on making government more transparent and providing more answers on what led to the financial meltdown and how the country can avoid a similar collapse in the future.