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Rep. Darrell Issa pledges to find $200 billion in government waste

As the incoming head of a House oversight committee, Republican Darrell Issa of Vista says the Obama administration has 'played fast and loose with the money Congress gave them.'

January 03, 2011|By Ken Dilanian, Washington Bureau
  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), incoming chairman of the House Oversight… (Chris Usher, CBS News )

Reporting from Washington — The California Republican who is poised to become chief congressional watchdog over the Obama administration struck a note of restraint Sunday, promising to wring waste out of government even as he steered away from accusing the administration of misconduct.

In a round of appearances on talk shows, Rep. Darrell Issa (R- Vista), who this week takes the helm of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, did not lay out a list of alleged scandals he plans to investigate. Under Republican control, the committee will be in a position to subpoena reams of documents from the administration.

Issa did criticize Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., saying Holder was being insufficiently aggressive in pursuing WikiLeaks and its participants over the disclosure of classified documents, among other issues.

"He isn't doing enough," Issa said on " Fox News Sunday." "He's hurting this administration. If you're hurting the administration, either stop hurting the administration or leave."

Yet Issa, who became a multimillionaire after his company developed the Viper car alarm system, said his priority was targeting government inefficiency, saying on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he believes he can identify $200 billion in waste on things such as Medicare misspending.

Asked whether the administration was corrupt, he said, "They've played fast and loose with the money Congress gave them."

During the fall campaign, Issa told conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that President Obama was "one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times." He later backed away, saying Obama was not personally corrupt.

He retreated further Sunday, saying that the sort of misspending he has identified so far amounts to "business as usual," the sort engaged in by both parties.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Issa said he was referring to the way the administration distributed money from the stimulus, bank bailout and other legislation.

When Republicans seized control of the House in 1995 under President Clinton, oversight committee Chairman Dan Burton of Indiana used the post to investigate the darker corners of the Whitewater matter, including the suicide of White House aide Vince Foster. Burton infamously reenacted the suicide by shooting a pumpkin with a pistol in his backyard.

Clinton is "a scumbag — that's why I'm after him," Burton told the Indianapolis Star in 1998.

Issa, by contrast, talked Sunday on CNN about a "wonderful" phone conversation he had after the election with Vice President Joe Biden, who he said shared his goal of targeting waste.

Issa did pledge, however, to seek repeal of Obama's healthcare plan, as did Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, who will chair another powerful committee, Energy and Commerce.

"We're going to go after this bill piece by piece … to see if we can't have the thing crumble," Upton said on Fox News.

In another lively Sunday exchange, newly elected Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) sparred on "Face the Nation" with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

"I don't know how in the world you folks go home and look these people in the eye and say, 'We've done a great job. We've done a great job. Your country is $14 trillion in debt,' " Kelly said.

Weiner fired back: "First of all, the 'you folks' stuff — now you are one of those folks. And it is your job in the majority party to govern.... All the 'you' stuff — that has to end today."

ken.dilanian@latimes.com

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