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Issa says Obama administration is 'one of most corrupt'

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 2, 2011; 7:33 PM

The Republican congressman who is taking over responsibility for congressional oversight called President Obama's administration "one of the most corrupt administrations" on Sunday and predicted that the investigations he is planning over the next two years could result in about $200 billion in savings for U.S. taxpayers.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was bullish in laying out his agenda for the new Congress with Republicans in control of the House.

Issa, who as chairman will have subpoena power, said he will seek to ferret out waste across the federal bureaucracy. While he used fiery rhetoric in describing the Obama administration in a series of television interviews Sunday, he said he will focus on wasteful spending, not the prosecution of White House officials.

Asked on "Fox News Sunday" about reports that the White House is staffing up on lawyers to prepare for his oversight hearings, Issa said: "They're going to need more accountants.

"It's more of an accounting function than legal function," Issa said. "It's more about the inspector generals than it is about lawyers in the White House. And the sooner the administration figures out that the enemy is the bureaucracy and the wasteful spending, not the other party, the better off we'll be."

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), who as ranking Democrat on Issa's committee will be the administration's chief defender during oversight investigations, criticized Issa for his partisan tone.

"I couldn't help but think about the fact he has called this president the most corrupt in history," Cummings said on CNN's "State of the Union," referencing a comment Issa made to radio host Rush Limbaugh last fall but has since dialed back.

"Keep in mind, Issa will have subpoena power to subpoena almost anybody he wants to," the congressman from Baltimore said. "And that's a problem when you come to these conclusions before you even bring people in. . . . I think that we're just going to have to be careful with this power."

Issa also was sharply critical of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., stopping short of calling for his resignation. He said the Justice Department has not properly investigated the publication of thousands of classified diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Issa said Holder should prosecute Assange as a criminal.

"I think [Holder] needs to realize that, for example, WikiLeaks, if the president says, 'I can't deal with this guy as a terrorist,' then he has to be able to deal with him as a criminal," Issa said on "Fox News Sunday." "Otherwise, the world is laughing at this paper tiger we've become.

"He's hurting this administration," Issa said of Holder. "If you're hurting the administration, either stop hurting the administration or leave."

Issa said he plans to lead bipartisan investigations on food and drug safety, as well as Medicare fraud.

"We can save $125 billion in simply not giving out money to Medicare recipients that don't exist for procedures that didn't happen," Issa said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "These are real dollars. Ten percent of the deficit goes out in wasted money - money that doesn't get one person health care in Medicare."

On the CNN show, Issa said: "When I look at waste, fraud and abuse in the bureaucracy and in the government, this is like steroids to pump up the muscles of waste."

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