Six months into Issa’s tenure as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, neither side’s predictions have proved quite right — although they still disagree about whether he’s doing a good job. And the congressman has been surprised by the experience.
“There’s more job than I expected,” Issa said in an interview last week. “With the limited resources that we have . . . we’ve done about 80 hearings and forums [but] what you find is it’s not even half of what we should have looked into or what we should do. We have a huge backlog.”
Issa helped set the bar high, saying in early January that Obama’s was “one of the most corrupt administrations” of modern times. If that were true, it seemed to follow, scandals should be easy to find.
That has not been the case, though Issa is particularly proud of the work his committee has done on Operation Fast and Furious, a controversial venture by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that targeted Mexican gun traffickers but has been linked to the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Issa has also proposed a broad overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service that would eliminate Saturday mail delivery. And he has pushed to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in workforce costs across the federal government.
“Issa’s style is much more focused than the media perceived it would be. And the White House wanted to make him into something he isn’t,” said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who chairs an oversight subcommittee.
Although the committee has produced few major investigative breakthroughs, McHenry said it has been hitting “the singles and doubles” that could eventually build into something larger.
“Expectations that you would have an immediate ‘aha’ moment are removed from reality,” he said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), another subcommittee head, said “there’s a learning curve” for a new chairman but predicted that many of the investigations the committee has underway would bear real fruit by next year.
Democrats paint a different picture.
“Frankly, I think the jury is still out on what kind of chairman he wants to be,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), a member of the oversight panel. “At times we see the statesman Darrell Issa and other times he has reverted to the very petty, partisan Darrell Issa.”
During Issa’s short tenure, Democrats have compiled a long list of complaints, including the topics he chooses to investigate as well as the way he handles subpoenas and minority witnesses.
They think Issa suffers not from a lack of resources but a lack of focus. He doesn’t have to investigate everything, they argue, and would be better served diving into the details of a few major issues rather than flitting around a larger universe of topics.