New chairman pulls down Issa portrait

It appears new House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOvernight Energy: Obama signs chemical safety reform into law House caucus to focus on business in Latin America Freedom Caucus urges vote on impeaching IRS commissioner MORE (R-Utah) really doesn’t want to sit in the shadow of his predecessor and fellow Republican, Darrell Issa (Calif.).

At least, that’s what his critics are saying.

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One of the Utah Republican’s first acts since taking over the Oversight panel gavel: removing portraits of Issa and other past chairmen from the walls of the Oversight Committee hearing room, committee sources told The Hill.

A Chaffetz aide said it’s much ado about nothing. But Issa allies see the move as a slap in the face to the last chairman, who tapped Chaffetz in 2011 as chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on National Security. Issa’s likeness, they note, had only been hanging in Rayburn 2154 for two months.

Some former committee staffers are steamed, pointing out that Chaffetz’s campaign platform for chairman last year was that he was the most “anti-Issa” candidate.

"Only someone with a massive inferiority complex would go to the extreme and somewhat unprecedented step of having every former chairman's portrait removed — especially when the obvious intent is to avoid having Chairman Issa's portrait hanging over his shoulder for the next few years,” said one former committee staffer.

“It's both childish and extremely disrespectful."

Chaffetz defended his decision to reporters at the GOP retreat in Hershey, Pa., but said his actions were not aimed at any particular person.

“I really felt strongly that in that committee room we should be inspired by those we serve, not inspired by past committee chairmen,” Chaffetz said.

In the coming weeks, Chaffetz will hang a series of photos depicting everyday America, including images representing the postal service, coal miners, civil rights, and the Golden Spike in his home state of Utah.

“Those are the types of pictures that I think should go up in the committee room rather than the monuments to me,” Chaffetz said. “We have enough of those.”

Chaffetz’s team is still in the process of finalizing plans, aides said, and roughly a half-dozen portraits will be moved to Oversight Committee conference rooms for both the majority and minority. Aides to the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), are aware of the plans.

Chaffetz said he has “no desire” to erect — or pay for — a portrait of himself.

But Chaffetz has been taking shots at Issa in the press, since he was selected as chairman by Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) Steering Committee and grabbed the gavel. In a recent Roll Call story, Chaffetz said his approach would rely more on subcommittees, taking the spotlight off of him. “It’s not the ‘Jason Chaffetz Show,’ ” he said, a swipe at Issa's ability to grab headlines.

Chaffetz also made all Oversight Committee staffers reapply for their jobs and ended up replacing about 60 percent of the roughly 60 staffers who had served under Issa.

“In the world of This Town, I've heard and seen a lot but this is the worst. Members of Congress don't even pull stunts like this to their biggest adversaries on the other side of the aisle let alone a friend and colleague,” said a second former committee staffer. “It's not just former Chairman Issa he's disrespecting, but former Chairmen Towns, Davis and Conyers too.

“In pulling this stunt, I don't think Chaffetz could be sending the message any clearer: ‘Welcome to the Jason Chaffetz show.’ ”

This story was updated at 4:28 p.m.