The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee is warning GOP leaders against partisan "witch hunts" when they take over the panel this year.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Sunday that such investigations might play well politically, but that they ultimately undermine the bipartisanship required to tackle the many problems facing the country.
"We can't have witch hunts. We can't have these fishing expeditions," Cummings said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"We've got to work together. And, yes, I am going to hold this administration to a very, very high standard."
Cummings, a 14-year veteran of the Oversight panel, cited the GOP investigations of the Clinton administration, where witnesses, he said, "were dragged in to depositions — people making $50,000 a year had to pay $25,000, $30,000 to hire a lawyer."
"We're just going to have to be careful with this power," he said. "And my approach is to make sure that we have oversight and reform — that is, we spent a lot of time on oversight but now we need to also have reform."
Appearing earlier on the same show, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Oversight Committee, said there are a number of areas where Democrats and Republicans can come together to eliminate government abuse and overspending.
"As soon as I got this job I got a call from Vice President [Joe] Biden. We had a 45-minute or so meeting, and it was a wonderful meeting because he cares about the same things I care about. He cares about the dollar going further. He has a huge government that needs help," Issa said.
"I've got IGs [inspectors general], the General Accounting Office, I've got all of government, including all of them that report to the president, I've got them wanting to do the same thing. I just have to help them do it."
Cummings said he wasn't terribly smitten by Issa's entreaties.
"I couldn't help but think about the fact he has called this president the most corrupt in history," Cummings said afterward. "Keep in mind, Issa will have subpoena power to subpoena almost anybody he wants to, and that's a problem when you come to these conclusions before you even bring people in."
Issa on Sunday defended his "most corrupt president" remark, which he made on the Rush Limbaugh show just before November's elections. He said he'd meant to say "one of the most corrupt administrations."
"When you hand out $1 trillion in [Wall St. bailout funds] just before this president came in, most of it unspent, $1 trillion nearly in stimulus that this president asked for, plus this huge expansion in health care and government, it has a corrupting effect," Issa said.
Cummings indicated the burden now falls on the newly empowered GOP majority to make good on their campaign-trail promises.
"They've been on the side lines throwing spit balls saying no, no, no, no, no, no, no," Cummings said. "Now they've got to do something."