Towns steps away from Oversight spot
Towns' position had already been challenged by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and the open spot hopefully tees up a competition centered around providing an effective check on Issa. Immediate contenders in the wake of the announcement include Rep. Carolyn Maloney who has Towns' support and Rep. Elijah Cummings, who received backing from Kucinich.
The Democratic response from the minority could have some influence on what Issa is able to accomplish, but will be much more important when it comes to framing Issa's many fishing expeditions. This leadership battle will be key to establishing that tone.
It’s never enough for Issa
It's just how the process works these days. So it should come as no surprise that Darrell Issa can be added to the list
of partisan conservatives who are balking at the last minute. He calls the deal "an incomplete effort that fails to create a permanent tax structure giving businesses the kind of long-term predictability needed to support investment, economic growth and job creation." He goes on to take partisan jabs at Nancy Pelosi that have nothing to do with the actual content or impact of the legislation.
In other words, after voting against tax cuts for the middle class because it didn't include enough for the rich, Issa had his demands met and still is unsatisfied. This has nothing to do with principle or content of policy. Rather, it has everything to do with Issa's understanding that the most effective tactic for moving the country as far to the right as possible is to be relentlessly dissatisfied. Always insist that your opponent compromise, but never accept such a compromise if you can think of anything else to demand.
Put another way: there's no winning in a concrete sense, only the other side continuing to lose.
This reflects the true nature of Issa's career and the future of the Oversight Committee. All the time he's spent trying to sound reasonable will go out the window when he's finally let loose next month. The results, such as they may be, are incidental. The point is to never stop pushing, never stop badgering- to keep up a relentless attack on not just the Obama Administration, but the fundamental function of the federal government. It's going to be a heck of a ride.
Issa wants more subpoenas
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Darrell Issa announced the clearest indication of what we can expect from his committee, prioritizing legislation that would give subpoena power to inspectors general throughout the federal government
. His rationale (before joining the coalition of Republicans insisting on adding hundreds of billions to the deficit via tax-cuts for the rich) was that "the government needs 'to go on a diet' to help erase the annual budget deficit of $1.4 trillion."
The tricky part of this is that, against such a backdrop, inspectors general would be under particular pressure to aggressively use this subpoena power- whether it's appropriate or not. Aside from the institutional gridlock that would result (EPA chief Lisa Jackson, for example, "is going to have her own parking spot up at the Rayburn"
), as one DC lawyer put it
Instead of just one congressional committee and a couple of subcommittees, you're going to potentially have 70-plus investigators with an expanded mandate to look for wrongdoing, it would expand the number of people who are called in for these investigations exponentially and the expenses from such investigations can be personally ruinous.
Issa noted in a report
accompanying his bill for expanded subpoena powers that "employees of government contractors and subcontractors are acutely aware of the limits inspectors general have." But he has also been careful to reassure the GOP's corporate and contractor backers, saying over the summer
that he "won't use it to have corporate America live in fear that we're going to subpoena everything. I will use it to get the very information that today the White House is either shredding or not producing."
At the time, an Issa spokesman clarified that "all that Issa was talking about was not using his authority to go on fishing expeditions targeting corporate America as was the case under Waxman." Reassuring that the only fishing will be inside the government.
Perhaps it's understandable though that Issa wants to make it more difficult to evade subpoenas. He has some recent experience with this himself, refusing a subpoena
in the Duke Cunningham corruption case that ultimately landed Cunningham a 100-month federal prison sentence. As long as those subpoenas are all for someone else.
Issa sort of concerned about waste
Already setting the stage for investigations into supposed waste across the federal government, Issa has used President Obama's recent pay-freeze for federal workers as an opportunity to wax outraged over federal waste
. Apparently the only person who still remembers it, Issa recommends going further than the President using the "Pledge to America" model from... whenever that happened for an afternoon.
In other tales of austere fiscal discipline at the federal level, Issa has spent the last month expanding his committee staff and acting horrified that anyone would consider not giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. Funny what happens to principle when it starts to hit home.
Issa uses the Postal Service to bash unions
One issue flying under the radar but likely to get plenty of attention from the Oversight Committee once it gets rolling is the budget challenges faced by the US Postal Service. These challenges aren't new- the USPS has been running in the red for years with email, online bill paying, UPS and FedEx cutting into revenue. The talk now is about if and how Congress can provide a bailout of the ailing service
Enter Darrell Issa, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and their never-ending need for investigations. While the payroll side is part of a solution that needs to include closing offices and raising rates, it's an opportunity for Issa to continue his crusade against working Americans
"It's very clear that addressing costs and labor costs and getting them in line with revenues are going to have to be part of fixing the deficit problem," said Frederick Hill, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is expected to take charge next month of the House committee that oversees the Postal Service. Asked last week whether Issa has any particular measures in mind, Hill said the congressman is watching the Postal Service's negotiations with its unions.
“Unions have balked at the idea of changing contacts, and refused the necessary layoffs that need to be made,” he said. “Even when we could retrain workers and put them in other areas of government, they’ve rejected that.”
This is all part and parcel of Issa's broader campaign against organized workers fighting for livable, sustainable wages from their jobs. As Joshua Holland noted at AlterNet
, whipping up anger and envy over the better wages, health care and retirement security enjoyed by organized workers is a timeless classic for conservatives.
And of course, Issa's personal obsession with chasing ACORN through the gates of Hell is largely designed to open up a broader investigation into SEIU and other major unions.
The USPS needs reform, and incoming Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe understands that full well after 35 years with the service. But using those needed reforms as a lame excuse to bash working Americans won't help anything. It's just par for the course with Darrell Issa.
Senate GOP takes up Issa’s 9/11 hero bashing
In a sign of how far to the extreme our Congress is moving, Senate Republicans today voted to block health aid for 9/11 workers
. This is the bill that would provide medical care to first responders and residents of New York City whose afflictions resulted from the 9/11 attacks.
"It simply was an aircraft, residue of two aircraft, and residue from the materials used to build this building," Issa said during a hearing into whether a new 9/11 victims' compensation fund should be launched.
Which is odd since, as Rep. Anthony Weiner notes, "The gentleman voted for [original 9/11 funding] because we had the national sense that this was not an attack on New York City, this was an attack on our country."
Issa has had no problem voting to send American troops from all corners of the nation to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of the 9/11 attacks- it wasn't a local issue then. And he's had no problem voting time and again to pay hundreds of billions to the military industrial complex to keep those invasions chugging along- 9/11 wasn't a local issue then.
"I continue to support federal assistance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," he said.
But he didn't retract his wacked-out rhetoric claiming the feds "just threw" buckets of cash at New York for an attack "that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it."
He went on: "I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration."
Those comments don't actually make any sense next to each other, but he said them anyways and ran with it. And on some level today, I suppose he's justified by Senate Republicans taking up the torch to block basic support for the heroes of 9/11.
Issa's prescience is hardly an encouraging sign of things to come.