Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a key Issa ally, defended the chairman’s strategy.
“You think something’s there, it doesn’t pan out, you move on,” he said. “You get a lot of whistleblowers who raise questions, and with limited resources, you have to figure out where you’re going to allocate resources.”
The committee’s “Fast and Furious” probe prompted most of the 43 requests for information from the Department of Justice.Issa said he launched the investigation only after the DOJ and the White House rebuffed requests for information by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Despite contentious exchanges with some GOP lawmakers at a Feb. 2 hearing on the issue, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “The questions that you’ve asked — they’ve been tough, they’ve been fair.”
But Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the panel’s ranking member, faulted Issa for permitting Republican committee members to air allegations against Holder and other federal officials who were still under investigation or that were previously disproved. Though he supports the “Fast and Furious” inquiry, Cummings said: “I want people to automatically assume that we’re operating almost on level with a federal court, where there’s a tremendous amount of respect. When there are allegations made and then they’re not proven, I think that it hurts every member of the committee.”
In his first year, Issa and his seven subcommittee chairmen led more than 120 hearings, according to committee staffers, far short of the seven-hearings-per-week vow he made before taking over. The number puts him short of former representative Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who ran the panel during the middle of George W. Bush’s presidential term, and ahead of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who chaired the committee during Bush’s final years in office.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a committee member, said Issa’s “peripatetic attention span” and tendency to quickly move on after attracting attention for a new line of inquiry hampers serious oversight of government management concerns.
“He’s failed to foster bipartisanship,” Connolly said. “There had been cooperation before. I don’t think it’s impossible for Darrell to recapture that, but a lot of damage has been done.”
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on financial services, however, credits Issa with “very methodical oversight that’s been lacking in the last decade in Congress on regulations.”
And Davis, whom Issa considers a mentor, praised the chairman’s first year. “He’s been very careful about the investigations he’s picked,” Davis said.
In his second year, Issa said he is forging ahead on a host of issues, including Obama’s plans to reorganize trade- and commerce-related agencies.
“Real reorganization takes time, it takes buy-in, historically, from Congress and the administration,” Issa said. “It takes a willingness to understand that the upheaval has to be far more worthwhile.”
“I was sent to Congress to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of as many as I could be,” he added. “I didn’t come to Congress for one thing. I came to try to leave our country better by being here, so I’m never apologetic for taking on as many diverse issues as I can.”