Darrell Issa Needs a New Baby-Sitter

If the Democratic Party wants to survive the next two years, it needs to find a new baby-sitter for Darrell Issa.

After all, no one was more gleefully prepared after the shellacking last Tuesday to take over and cause trouble for Democrats that Issa. He’s been planning a series of witch hunts for months. And since Tuesday, Issa has made it clear just how expansive he intends those witch hunts to be.

California Rep. Darrell Issa is already eyeing a massive expansion of oversight for next year, including hundreds of hearings; creating new subcommittees; and launching fresh investigations into the bank bailout, the stimulus and, potentially, health care reform.

Issa told POLITICO in an interview that he wants each of his seven subcommittees to hold “one or two hearings each week.”

“I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks,” Issa said.

Issa is also targeting some ambitious up-and-comers like Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio — all aggressive partisans — to chair some of his subcommittees.


To give an idea of how expansive Issa’s oversight plans are, look at the record of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) when he chaired the oversight committee during in the 110th Congress during George W. Bush’s presidency. Waxman held 203 oversight hearings in two years; Issa has signaled he’s prepared to hold about 280 in just one year.

The current Chair of Oversight, Ed Towns, is not up to the task of keeping Issa in check.

As I noted two years ago, Towns was never all that interested in Oversight; to him it was a gavel and nothing more. Plus, he’s funded by some of the industries–like Pharma–that need some oversight.

More importantly, the last two years have proven him unequal to the task of keeping Issa in line. Indeed, Issa has pushed Towns around to do things like focus on the Countrywide VIP program, even while Towns failed to do much positive with his gavel. Keeping Towns on as Ranking Member of Oversight will deprive us of any way of limiting the damage of Issa’s witch hunts.

We need someone with both the intestinal fortitude and the progressive stripes to encourage Issa where we could use more Oversight–such as on the Wall Street bailout, which Issa promises to investigate–while obstructing Issa’s efforts to shut down government or sniff through Obama’s panty drawer, as Issa’s predecessor, Dan Burton, did to Clinton.

We need someone like Elijah Cummings, who considered a run for Oversight Chair two years ago, and who has been one of the few people on Oversight demanding the Committee do what it is supposed to do. Cummings has been very good at using his spot on the Committee to expose the cronyism of government (particularly on the Wall Street bailout). And of critical importance, he speaks well enough to match a showboater like Issa. He has the ability to expose Issa’s more partisan stunts as such. Finally, replacing Towns with Cummings will limit the complaints of the CBC (particularly in case Clyburn loses to Steny in the Whip fight).

The focus since Tuesday has been on the leadership fight between Steny and others. But just as important as picking the right leader to keep the caucus as effective as possible in the minority, we need to pick a better baby-sitter for Issa–someone like Elijah Cummings.

  1. donbacon says:

    Exactly what is your objection to more congressional oversight of an executive branch which is widely believed to be abusing executive privilege particularly in the recent two administrations? More particularly when Obama is especially responsive to financial interests and insensitive to the public?

    Who cares if the Democratic Party survives the next two years? It’s the people we should worry about, not the Party.

    • emptywheel says:

      Note I specified there is some oversight Issa has promised to do, which I favor.

      What I object to is millions wasted on an investigation of ACORN and the New Black Panthers.

  2. donbacon says:

    Issa looks okay to me. I don’t see any acorns or panthers.


    Wall Street will have to accept a new level of scrutiny and demands for transparency for how they make decisions and the impact those decisions have on the economy. Main Street will hopefully benefit from this new degree of openness and accountability and I will continue to fight for their right to know.

    The focus of our committee is how the bureaucracy works or in many cases, doesn’t work. There is a lot we can do to achieve the goal of reducing the cost of health care—beginning with looking at the massive amounts of fraud that occurs in existing programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

    The only way to ensure we do not repeat the sequence of events that resulted in our financial meltdown is to fully expose the true nature of what went wrong and why. This must begin with an honest and complete examination of the role that Countrywide’s VIP program played in passing bad loans on Americans with the cooperation of government entities like Fannie and Fredddie. . .I hope we expose the true nature of what happened, why it happened and provide a road map for ensuring it never happens again.


    The more transparency the better. Obama let us down on transparency (seeing prospective bills on the web, etc.) and he should pay the price.

    • emptywheel says:

      No, Issa has ALREADY done investigations into such things, as well as into the Salahi event. He has a long history of bad faith on intelligence and oversight (such as making false claims about what Plame had said on intell).

      I realize he’s trying to charm the press right now, but which are you going to believe: the actions of his entire career, or his statements trying to disarm the press?

      Moreover, if he doesn’t decide to pursue these witch hunts, then there’s still no downside to have Cummings instead of Towns. Towns has no real interest in oversight. Cummings does. So why not have two competent people pursuing oversight?

    • mattcarmody says:

      Apparently this is the first time you’ve seen or heard this particular dingleberry.

      Issa needs someone to wipe the froth from the corners of his mouth when he gets going. Unfortunately there’s no one to wipe the froth from his brain as he tries mental gymnastics that are way beyond him.

  3. cregan says:

    I think the more investigations in the more directions, the better. Not enough in either the left direction or the right.

    • donbacon says:

      Phoenix Woman, as on climate change, we can’t always have the people we prefer. We can go on and on about how Darrell Issa isn’t George Washington or the Second Coming but apparently he’s the oversight guy, and if he’s providing transparency into government decisions and thereby putting a check on executive power then he’s our (my) go-to guy on clarifying important government decisions, decisions that many of us have questioned, irregardless of where he got his money.

      I’d be comfortable with the devil himself if could put a check on the executive privilege which, along with congressional and SC malfeasance (I can’t leave anyone out) has fouled up Team USA.

  4. Kevin Baron, ASBL says:

    I think you are spot on about the Issa situation facing the OGR Committee in the 112th…I also agree that Cummings would be better suited than Towns to provide a check on the majority, much like Issa has done to Towns over the past two years. The only other person on that committee besides Cummings who could be up to the task would be Rep. Carolyn Maloney…she has also been a champion of a lot of progressive causes, but more importantly, she has an established track record of fighting for more oversight and accountability…

  5. davidasposted says:

    Cummings has been very good at using his spot on the Committee to expose the cronyism of government (particularly on the Wall Street bailout).

    Okay, then what happened?

  6. danceswithtrees says:

    I can’t wait until Barney Frank is sitting in a hearing about the subprime crisis and how he defended the corrupt Fannie and Freddie. Barney needs to account for his horrendous actions on behalf of all of us. Barney defended Fannie and sold us out.

  7. rmwarnick says:

    Having Rep. Jason Chaffetz chair a subcommittee could be interesting.

    Today on Dylan Ratigan’s MSNBC show, Rep. Chaffetz said, “I don’t have any hesitation whatsoever” in calling for a House investigation of the Bush torture regime.

  8. chrisc says:

    Issa is a jerk. There is no way he is going to use his subpoena power for anything but an orchestrated attempt to make Dems look bad. Remember Issa wanted Carol Lam out because she wasn’t prosecuting enough illegal immigrants. And Issa is the one who played a huge role in the California recall of Gray Davis.

    The only good thing about Issa and that recall is that the California voters were so sick of Arnie that they voted in almost all Dems for statewide office last week.

  9. MrSandman says:

    Waxman is all bark, no bite. Issa’s just going to try to go for the jugular as much as he can. Congress is in sore need of real oversight, but it isn’t coming from anyone presently there…

  10. TheOracle says:

    I think the Rude Pundit got it right about what Issa (and the Republicans) are really attempting to do with Issa’s 24/7 investigations, which he claims will look into the Obama administration and the Bush administration (selectively, I’m sure).

    It’s all about welding Obama to Bush’s hip, as part of the Republicans’ stated goal of making President Obama a one-term president, going after President Obama where he has continued Bush’s policies, both dragging down Obama and Bush at the same time. The Republicans behind this scheme are well aware of the crimes committed during the Bush administration, which Issa will touch on lightly, not digging too deep, but just enough to show that they carried over into the Obama administration, which will be probed extensively, while Republicans make the claim that Obama’s administration carried what Bush started to extremes.

    President Obama and the Department of Justice under Eric Holder could counter-attack, seating grand juries to investigate “high crimes and misdemeanors” committed under the previous Bush/Cheney administration, opening up cases never opened, hastily closed or weakly investigated when Republicans ran Congress before, exposing all the abuses that happened over eight torturous Bush/Cheney years.

    However, I doubt that President Obama will finally get off his ass and defend the Constitution, even as Republicans in the House launch specious investigations by the sh*tload. He’ll probably still talk about bipartisanship and “working” with Republicans even as a smear and slander him for the next two years. Poor guy. I thought he was smarter than this. One thing that he and Democrats could do immediately, on the other hand, is always say “culture of corruption” before “Republican” everytime they mention Republicans by name or in general. Sometimes the truth hurts…Republicans…while the lies of the culture of corruption Republicans always hurt Americans.

    • bobschacht says:

      It’s all about welding Obama to Bush’s hip, as part of the Republicans’ stated goal of making President Obama a one-term president, going after President Obama where he has continued Bush’s policies, both dragging down Obama and Bush at the same time.

      Actually, I hope you’re right about this. It might just embarrass Obama enough to stop, or at least reduce, his continuation of Bush policies and crimes.

      Bob in AZ

  11. bobschacht says:

    I posted this comment on another thread, but it probably belonged here:

    OK, here’s the deal. This may be an odious path to some, but it may be the only way to get traction on the torture issue.

    The Republicans aren’t going to be too eager to investigate Bush’s open confession of a war crime, even if Nadler is all hot and bothered about it. They won’t get interested unless they can hang some of it on Obama.
    (Here, imagine a light bulb flashing over my head.)

    Ah! but what if someone fed info about goings-on at Bagram under Obama to Daryl Issa?

    Bob in AZ