President Barack Obama and the Democrats will face a newly invigorated House Republican leadership this week with sweeping plans for congressional investigations into a wide range of issues.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who will become chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when the 112th Congress is sworn in Wednesday, told The Washington Post
he plans to lead six major investigations in the first three months of the year. That will call for a grueling schedule, since congressional investigations often take months to bear fruit.
On Issa’s list:
• WikiLeaks' release of classified diplomatic cables
• Recalls at the Food and Drug Administration
• The role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the foreclosure crisis
• The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's failure to identify the origins of the meltdown
• Alleged corruption in Afghanistan
Issa is sure to make waves, because he’ll have subpoena power to compel officials to appear before his committee. Among the administration officials he’ll be questioning soon is national security adviser Tom Donilon. Issa specifically wants to know whether the administration has a strategy to stop the dissemination of sensitive information on sites such asWikiLeaks.
"I've always been fond of the saying that when it comes to oversight and reform, the federal government does two things well: nothing and overreact," Issa told reporters Monday. "Too often, a problem is allowed to fester until it reaches a crisis point . . . and the American people are left asking the question: What went wrong and why?"
Issa also has asked business groups which Obama administration regulations to target, according to Politico
. He sent a letter to 150-plus trade associations, private companies, and think tanks this week.
“As a trade organization comprised of members that must comply with the regulatory state, I ask for your assistance in identifying existing and proposed regulations that have negatively impacted job growth in your members’ industry,” the letter read. “Additionally, suggestions on reforming identified regulations and the rulemaking process would be appreciated.”
Other incoming Republican committee chairmen are planning investigations into the Justice Department's civil rights division, the radicalization of Muslims in the United States, homeland security grant money, and air cargo and port and chemical plant security, the Post reported.
The incoming chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, said he plans to investigate the extent to which American Muslims are cooperating with law enforcement authorities in an effort to measure the radicalization of the U.S. Muslim community. The New York Republican also plans to probe homeland security issues.
"Different from Darrell Issa, I'm not expecting to find significant corruption in the departments," King told the Post. "To the extent there's disagreement, it will be philosophical disagreement and a question of leadership, whether or not the department is assertive enough."
Rep. Lamar Smith, head of the House Judiciary Committee, is planning investigations of the Justice Department, including allegations that the civil rights division is not enforcing voter rights laws fairly.
Since Democrats control the Senate, the White House, and federal agencies, Republicans can use House oversight hearings to slow down policies and practices they disapprove of.
"The ability to hold hearings is a tool to help shape public opinion, put pressure on the Senate and maybe allow you at the end of the day to get concessions from the administration," said former Republican congressman Vin Weber, a Washington lobbyist.
But, Weber added: "Speaker [John] Boehner is quietly insisting that the investigative process be focused on substantive matters and not become a political witch hunt."
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