This New York Times article asks whether Rep. Darrell Issa and the GOP will be digging or investigating a long laundry list of violations that the Obama admin has committed over the last two years. I can almost guarantee that Rep. Issa and the GOP will be investigating away. YEA!! The N.Y. Times columnist Brian Friel makes an educated guess as to which issues he thinks that Darrell Issa and the GOP will be investigating after they takeover the reigns in January. Friel even goes onto mention some additional issues which he thinks should be investigated as well.
Here is the list:
White House job offers. The question is whether the administration offered plum positions to get two Senate primary challengers — Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and Andrew Romanoff in Colorado — to drop their bids against Democratic incumbents. While the White House insists and most legal experts agree that no law was broken, Mr. Issa has said that that Americans could have “confidence in the legitimacy of the conclusions drawn” by the administration in the cases only if they have access to all related documents.
“Friends of Angelo.” Several prominent Democrats, including two senators, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut (who chose not to run for re-election this month), were found to have received sweetheart mortgage rates from Countrywide Financial and its former chief executive, Angelo Mozilo. While the Senate Ethics Committee found “no substantial credible evidence” that the two senators had violated ethics rules, Mr. Issa says more investigation is warranted into whether other government officials got such deals.
Acorn. The liberal nonprofit group dissolved last year in the glare of conservative scrutiny, but some Republicans want an investigation into Acorn’s federal financing for its housing programs, which amounted to at least $53 million since 1994.
New Black Panthers. Last year the Justice Department convened and then dropped an investigation into whether members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated voters at a polling place in Philadelphia in 2008. Many conservatives feel the case was concluded prematurely and would like the Justice Department to take it up again.
Climate science. Conservatives who question the consensus that climate change is manmade want to use various committees’ oversight powers to challenge its scientific underpinnings, many of which were reached by federally financed researchers. Mr. Issa has focused on the so-called Climategate scandal involving alleged manipulation of data by British scientists: “For me, settled science starts out with settled raw data,” Mr. Issa said. “If the raw data’s in doubt, then the idea that we have settled science doesn’t exist. I want settled science.”
BP oil-spill response. Republicans may want to emphasize the White House’s missteps in dealing with the Gulf oil spill in April. In July, Mr. Issa said that the administration’s “preoccupation with public relations” might have hindered local officials’ efforts to deal with the disaster.
Economic stimulus. Representative Issa created a Web site where people can post pictures of road signs touting projects financed by the $787 billion economic stimulus package; he says the signs are little more than expensive propaganda, costing taxpayers $192 million. Mr. Issa will no doubt find additional creative ways to raise doubts about the administration’s response to the Great Recession, which he says has wasted money on swimming pools, zoos and golf courses.
Czars. Mr. Issa wants to give special scrutiny to unconfirmed presidential advisers including Elizabeth Warren, who is setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Carol Browner, who oversees environmental policy. Such czars are a sign of the “arrogance of government,” Mr. Issa says, because their appointments avoid Congress’s constitutional advise-and-consent role.
INVESTIGATIONS WE COULD REALLY USE
Federal contracts. Agencies paid private contractors at least $539 billion in fiscal 2009, much of it with little or no competition or performance evaluation. An additional $660 billion-plus in grants to states, local governments and nonprofits has undergone no systemic Congressional review. The committee should look into possible waste and whether contracting rules were followed.
The Civil Service. As with contractors, Congress has not systemically reviewed the performance and efficiency of the government’s 1.8 million-member work force.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. At $136 billion so far, the federal takeover of the quasi-private housing corporations is the most expensive component of the government’s response to the economic crisis. Figuring out the government’s role in the housing market going forward is essential after decades of Congressional neglect.
Defense spending. Congress has been loath to dig too deeply into waste in the Pentagon budget, in part because every state and Congressional district benefits from the spending. But 8 of the 31 agencies on the Government Accountability Office high-risk list of programs “vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement” are run out of the Defense Department. Certainly Congress should scrutinize them.
Food safety. A series of recalls, including that of half a billion eggs last summer in a salmonella outbreak, has highlighted the strains on the Food and Drug Administration. Congress should investigate whether it needs to be reformed or its duties taken up by other agencies.
Transparency. The government keeps too much information secret, operating a costly system of classification. Much of the information it does make public is impossible for most citizens to comprehend. Republicans could push agencies to declassify more information more quickly and draft legislation to compel the bureaucracy to release data in more usable formats.
Veterans health. Since the exposure of terrible conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007, Congress has dumped billions into the veterans health system. But there has been little follow-up to examine the quality of care and the cost-effectiveness of efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies.
Loan guarantees. Congress has backed more than $100 billion in loans in energy-related private projects. Because the guarantees don’t cost much up front, they tend to get little scrutiny. But the taxpayers are on the hook for any projects that go bust, and Congress should scrutinize them more carefully to determine the risk of failure and whether the projects truly deserve our backing.
Agency performance. Do taxpayers get what they pay for? In 1993, Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Act, requiring federal agencies to report each year on how well they were meeting goals, like whether the Internal Revenue Service is collecting all taxes due or whether the Education Department is improving student achievement. Agencies still produce those reports, but everyone involved knows that nobody really reads them. Oversight committees should start using them the way shareholders use companies’ annual reports: to see if their investments are paying off.
Congress itself. Committees in general do little sustained oversight, instead chasing headlines. And they operate with significant overlap — more than 100 committees and subcommittees oversee the Homeland Security Department, for example. The committees offer few channels for public input and participation. As one expert says, “I’d like to see Congress take a hard look at how it does oversight before it does any more of it.”
I am looking forward to seeing Rep. Darrell Issa dig, dig, dig, and the deeper the better.