With new oversight powers, House GOP aims to put Obama on defensive
Obama has faced little congressional oversight so far, but with House GOP probing into policies ranging from illegal immigration to health care, the president's oversight holiday may be over.
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To date, the Obama administration has faced relatively little congressional oversight. During the past two years, the House Oversight and Government Reform panel has held 197 oversight hearings. But that will change now that Republicans have control. Incoming oversight committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California plans 280 hearings this year alone – and counting.
With the White House and the Democrat-controlled Senate still able to stymie GOP legislation coming from the House, investigations might be one of the most potent ways for House Republicans to leave their mark on this Congress. Committee chairs have broad powers to investigate – and Republican leaders are encouraging them to do so.
New probes will emerge from many committees and on a range of topics, from the actions of the Federal Reserve during the financial meltdown to enforcement of illegal-immigrant laws to how the administration is implementing sweeping health-care and financial reforms passed by Democrats last year.
But ground zero is the House oversight committee, a panel with an unusually free hand to pick targets to investigate. Chairman Issa – who famously referred to President Obama as "the most corrupt president in modern times" – calls himself "the House GOP's chief watchdog." But he plays down the firebrand image. There will be no witch hunts, he says.
He, like other committee chairs, is under a mandate from GOP leaders to relate all that they do to the No. 1 issue on the minds of Americans: creating jobs.
"We are going to focus on jobs and the economy," Issa says.
Among the expected investigations:
•Issa is preparing investigations on issues ranging from WikiLeaks and alleged corruption in Afghanistan to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and food safety. He also plans to ask why the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission failed to meet a congressional mandate to explain causes of the financial crisis. The panel, dogged by partisan rifts and staff changes, has delayed release of its final report until the end of January.