Rep. Darrell Issa is aiming to launch investigations on everything from WikiLeaks to Fannie Mae to corruption in Afghanistan in the first few months of what promises to be a high profile chairmanship of the top oversight committee in Congress.
According to an outline of the committee’s hearing topics obtained by POLITICO, the House Oversight and Government Reform is also planning to investigate how regulation impacts job creation, the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the foreclosure crisis; recalls at the Food and Drug Administration and the failure of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to agree on the causes of the market meltdown.
This sweeping and specific hearing agenda shows that Issa (R-Calif.) plans to cut a wide swath as chairman, latching onto hot button issues that could make his committee the center of attention in the opening months of the 112th Congress. By grabbing such a wide portfolio – especially in national security matters – Issa is also laying down a marker of sorts, which could cement his panel as the go-to place for investigations.
An order for hearings has not been set and witnesses have not yet been notified. The committee staff is still moving offices, and subcommittees are currently being organized. Hearings aren’t likely to begin until late January or early February.
Issa’s broad portfolio of investigations – some of which could the Obama administration — harkens back to the days of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) squaring off against the Bush administration and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) picking fights with Bill Clinton’s White House.
"If we can take any lessons away from the results of the midterm elections, it's that the American people will no longer tolerate a government that has institutionalized a culture of waste and abuse that acts carelessly with their tax-dollars,” Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said in a statement to POLITICO. “As chairman of this committee, Congressman Issa will pursue an agenda that aims to shed light on the failures of government for the purpose of reforming them so that the government is more transparent and accountable to the American people.”
Issa’s counterpart will be Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) as the panel’s top Democrat, who was given the top minority party position in order to be an effective foil to the aggressive Issa. Cummings, who represents Baltimore, Sunday said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Congress must “be careful with this power” – referring to oversight, and use caution and austerity in hearings.
“You know, I think we — I sat on this committee for 14 years and I watched what happened with the Clinton administration and how witnesses were dragged in to depositions, people making $50,000 a year had to pay $25,000, $30,000 to hire a lawyer,” Cummings said.
In a statement to POLITICO Sunday evening, Cummings said he would “draw a line at which any witch hunts or hearings that are conducted purely for partisan gains.”
“Like Mr. Issa, I want to ask tough questions and ensure the highest standard from our public employees,” Cummings said. “However, I will ask him not to prejudge any of these issues, nor seek answers only to confirm political leanings."
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