EPA under Issa’s scrutiny
The incoming House Republican leadership has made no bones about their plans for an all-out attack on climate science and environmental protection
. And looking back at Darrell Issa's recent history with the EPA, it's increasingly clear that he will be on the EPA hunt from as many angles as possible when Issa picks up the gavel.
Meanwhile, Issa's spearheaded an official committee project recruiting people to send in photos of ARRA signs at Recovery Act projects. Dubbed "Signs of a Failed Stimulus"
, it really is just a flickr stream of the same roadsign over and over again. But somehow, unlike the taxpayer-funded 'signs of a failed stimulus' project, the ARRA signs are both propaganda and a waste of taxpayer money. And who uses those signs? The EPA of course
. The policy on signs was directed from the White House, but Issa is provided with still more ammunition.
The nation's rivers aren't burning anymore, Jackson said. The air is clean enough that many people don't notice it. Struggling species have rebounded. But because younger people have no memories of those days, they might not realize why the agency was created in the first place, she said.
That effectiveness is also specifically why it's such a high priority for opponents of environmental protection, and why Issa will have to foreground the EPA's work and climate protection in general.
“How acrimonious that gets is really up to them,” Issa recently told Howard Kurtz
. Which is true to a point. In standard GOP form, it will be acrimonious if he doesn't immediately get everything he demands without question. But that's not oversight, that's a witch hunt
(The title of this post has been changed -LOC)
Issa and House GOP gear up Climate Science takedown
When Darrell Issa released a partial target list in September
, the "Polarization of Science" (is that a pun? tone-deaf irony?) surrounding climate change was prominently featured. So as he continues revving up for his unprecedented volume of hearings, he's getting the stage set for an all-out war on the viability of addressing climate change.
It won't be ignored entirely though, as Darrell Issa will be putting the very notion of climate change on trial- and the gears have been in motion for a while. From well before the election, Issa and other House Republicans have been gearing up for wide ranging investigations
into everything from the BP oil spill to ARRA signage to the very existence of climate change driven by human activity.
As House Republicans compete to out-tea party each other, an increasingly horrifying range of possible targets have come up. Joe Barton wants to examine over-regulation of "hazardous air pollution from oil refineries, chemical factories, or mining operations as well as hospital incinerators that dispose of medical and infectious waste.
[He] also asks the EPA to re-visit regulations governing the use of leaded aviation fuels, or airborne mercury pollution."
In short, it's going to be a full frontal assault on basic science and the fundamental notion of protecting the environment on any level. They want to take the next two years to defeat climate science permanently. And Darrell Issa will be on the front line, investigating "Climategate" and any other abuses he can think up.
The Partisan Agenda
It took Darrell Issa a matter of minutes after polls closed on election night to begin his particular brand of media charm offensive
. He's been ubiquitous
since then on political talk shows up and down the dial, doing his best to promise reasonable hearings while soaking up his newfound stardom. But there's no reason to buy it.
His comments were enough that the Chicago Tribune editorial board is nervous about his plans
, noting that "the scale and scope of Issa's post-election remarks sound like he's in danger of overreaching." No kidding. He's got big plans to dramatically increase subpoena power for committee investigators, and while he's been dressing up his rhetoric in fits and starts to sound reasonable, Dan Walters recently reported that
"His job, he said, is to 'measure failures.'"
That doesn't sound like a guy without an agenda. It sounds like a guy with a specific target and room to run.
The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it’s doing the governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party’s cooperation — cooperation that won’t be forthcoming.
There's every indication- and reason to assume anyways- that the Republican stategy in DC will continue to be obstruction at any cost. It worked for the last two years as they sought to prove that President Obama couldn't fix things by blocking government's ability to function. And with 2012 already around the corner, Obama is priority one for team GOP.
Krugman sadly notes, rightly, "there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore." Darrell Issa is ready to make sure of it.
Issa Plans Cavalcade of Hearings
It’s never too early to plan your new year’s resolutions. And no one has taken that more seriously than Darrell Issa, the California Republican poised to take over as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Looking to make his mark, he’s already set a goal to hold as many as 560 hearings in the next Congress.
By contrast, in the two years that Henry Waxman was an active chair, there were 203.
One example is the extension of paid family leave for federal employees.
Issa’s argument is rooted in a song conservatives have been singing for quite a while now about the injustice of public employees earning more than private employees. The problem is that that statement is misleading because, as Jonathan Cohn pointed out
earlier this year, it doesn’t take into account factors like, say, education. He highlighted a study that does just that
which found that “state workers on average, 6.8 to 7.4 percent lower than compensation for comparable private sector workers.”
Like so many of the other things Republicans bemoan these days, Mr. Issa also claims that this program would be too costly (estimated at $850 million over five years
). Taking such arguments seriously is difficult at best when so many of his conservative colleagues have been demanding that the extension of the Bush tax cuts include those for the top 2 percent – which would add about $70 billion
to the deficit in the first year alone.
Undaunted by absurdity, Issa warned
that allowing paid leave could lead workers to “have one adoption or one foster child per year” just to get four weeks off with pay each time. The idea that federal employees would take on the cost and responsibility of one child after another just for a month off from work stretches credulity to its breaking point.
The most vocal advocate of paid family leave, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), has said
, "No federal employee who's a new parent should be forced to choose between their paycheck and their newborn -- or newly adopted -- child in those vital first few weeks home. As the nation's largest employer, the federal government can -- and should -- lead the way on this issue."
We are at a very delicate point in the recovery and there is great need for care in cutting the deficit as well as ensuring that individuals and small businesses have the resources to succeed. But we cannot hope to achieve that if one of the people at the helm is crusading against some the very programs that are essential to helping people get back on their feet and provide for their families.
GOP set to eliminate Congressional Ethics Office?
Is the new GOP majority in the House serious about reform, ethics and good government? Surprise! Um... no.
Steve Benen caught a story last week that's largely flown under the radar thus far: The GOP is ready to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Benen reminds us of the long-forgotten days of the early 2000s when Republican members of Congress were going straight from the Capitol to jail without passing Go (but after collecting more than $200).
Turns out that the guy leading the charge is one of Darrell Issa's SoCal chums, Rep. David Dreier
According to an email seen by ABC News, Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., called the OCE on Friday, Nov. 5, just three days after the midterm elections in which Republicans regained a majority and control of the House. During that phone conversation, ABC's source said, the California representative asked for justification of its continued existence.
ABC also notes that, shockingly, members of the team seeking to eliminate OCE have an axe to grind:
Two members on that GOP transition team are were previously investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics: Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the likely GOP Conference chair, and John Campbell, R-Calif. Hensarling was cleared of all charges, Campbell is still under investigation by the House ethics committee.
So when Issa says things like transparent is his favorite color
it's window dressing. The GOP has no interest in actual accountability or enforcement of ethics when it comes to their own members- it never has. Of course not; too many of them are caught up in unethical and illegal activity.
The priority is "transparency" for their political targets, in classic Roveian style. Be actually corrupt, then attack your opponents for made up corruption. Darrell Issa may talk about bipartisanship, but this is the real GOP goal- destroy the barriers to corruption.
The relative attention given to Issa relative to this attempt to cripple or eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics belies the upcoming reality. At best, Issa's hearings will be a well-orchestrated misdirection.
Issa Twists TSA
Darrell Issa took to CNN last weekend, doing his best to seize on the hot issue of the month- invasive new screening procedures by the TSA. Clearly, waxing outraged over the TSA is a headline grabber with populist appeal
, which is what Issa is all about in his post-election tour-de-reasonable. And he's railed against TSA outrages in the past
But right on cue, Issa takes an opportunity and turns it into proof that he's just interested in playing to the tea party base and attacking government in principle. Because what's his solution to reform TSA procedures? Privatize of course!
Of course, privatization wouldn't help anything, and has a much better chance of making the situation worse.
Privatization is really a separate argument here, but one of the more dubious solutions proposed...You can opt to privatize your airport security, but it's still regulated
by the TSA. The body scanner/pat down option doesn't become less invasive because it's not done by a government worker. According
to the TSA, "TSA’s policies – including advanced imaging technology and pat downs – are in place at all domestic airports."
So the same procedures would be in place, but with extra layers of bureaucracy insulating bad behavior. And if the subtext of Issa's plan is to fully privatize security, including privatizing the formulation and oversight of screening procedure, well... Issa knows a few things about that. He's the one who threatened that Blackwater would purposely fail to protect Rep. Henry Waxman in Iraq
if Waxman seriously investigated Blackwater abuses. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of private contractors performing security.
A quick grab for headlines is exactly what to expect from Issa- he's been doing it his entire career. But this isn't a serious solution, it's a half-hearted anti-government play to the rabid conservative base. You can throw out the carefully orchestrated media appearances promising somber, even-handed investigations if this is a sign of things to come.