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Issa reconfigures House Oversight Committee subcommittees

By Meg Beasley
Federal News Radio

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced today his subcommittee chairmen for the 112th Congress.

Issa is the incoming head of the committee tasked with overseeing essentially all government functions. With increased oversight and accountability at the top of the new House agenda, Issa and his committee likely are to wield significant influence.

Issa made it clear he would take a hard line toward the administration earlier this year. In the Washington Post, Issa called it “one of the most corrupt administrations” and during an interview on CNN he said Obama’s initiatives were “steroids to pump up waste.”

“The American people deserve and have a right to expect that the money Washington has taken from them is well spent and well accounted for,” Issa said in a release announcing the new leadership today. “These subcommittees are a reflection of the substantive agenda House Republicans have promised to pursue one that is focused on identifying and reforming waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement within the federal bureaucracy.”

The ranking Democrat on the Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), sent a letter to Issa in which he agreed.

“I want to join [Issa] in conducting responsible oversight to ensure accountability in government and effective operation of our nation’s laws,” Cummings wrote.

Referencing President Obama’s call to for more civil discourse, Cummings wrote, “Together, I hope we can elevate the level of discourse not only on our Committee, but across the nation.”

The committee is organized in seven subcommittees:

  • The Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy will be chaired by Dennis Ross (Fla.)
  • The Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management will be chaired by Todd Platts (Pa.)
  • The Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform will be chaired by James Lankford (Okla.)
  • The Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending will be chaired by Jim Jordan (Ohio)
  • The Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives will be chaired by Trey Gowdy (S.C.)
  • The Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations will be chaired by Jason Chaffetz (Utah)
  • The Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs will be chaired by Patrick T. McHenry (N.C.)

A request to Cummings’ office about who will be the ranking members of the subcommittees was not immediately returned.

Ross, Lankford and Gowdy are all freshmen legislators.

As head of the subcommittee on technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and procurement reform, Lankford will oversee information technology and data standards, public information and procurement reform.

“Congressman Lankford will be an excellent leader in our fight to protect the taxpayers and the job-creating private sector from the waste, fraud, and abuse of their money,” Issa said. “We cannot succeed without fundamental changes in how the government buys goods and services and unless we have complete, accurate, and timely data.”

In a press release, Lankford called the appointment an honor and said he is looking forward to working with the full committee to “get our fiscal house in order.”

Some chairmen, however, are Capitol Hill veterans. Platts, tasked with leading one of the most important subcommittees, has been a member of Congress for 10 years.

“To tackle the longstanding government management issues that hinder dedicated public servants and continue to suffocate private sector job growth, we needed someone with the expertise and experience,” said Issa. “I asked Representative Platts if he would take this job and am grateful that agreed. His record of leadership in promoting result-oriented government management policies is critical to our success in meeting these challenges.”

Platts sponsored legislation last year designed to give Congress and the public the tools to better evaluate the effectiveness of government programs. President Obama signed the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act of 2010 into law at the close of the 111th Congress.

Issa announced earlier this year that all Oversight Committee hearings would be posted on YouTube as part of his goal to increase transparency.

“The American people have a right to an efficient and effective government,” said Issa. They have a right to a Congress and White House that is held accountable and acts transparently. This is our committee’s mission and this is what Oversight Republicans will work tirelessly to deliver to the American people.”

One of Issa’s priorities will be business regulation. Earlier this year he solicited advice from businesses, trade associations and think tanks seeking to identify regulations that businesses believe hurt job creation.

Jordan, as the chairman of the subcommittee that will investigate wasteful spending and federal regulations, wants to shut down the administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program to provide mortgage relief, saying it is a costly failure. He said the program has helped few homeowners modify their mortgages. The program also has been criticized by Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the government’s financial bailout program.

Cummings’s letter went on to outline his priorities and approach to legislation in the coming Congress.

“As ranking member, my goals are straightforward,” Cummings wrote. “I want the committee to engage in oversight that is regarded as serious rather than dismissed as silly or absurd; to establish strong predicates for investigations rather than making unsubstantiated allegations that waste taxpayer funds; to use committee resources to inform and educate the American people rather than attacking opponents; and to conduct comprehensive, balanced investigations that seek out the truth rather than launching one-sided inquiries designed to fulfill predetermined outcomes.”

Cummings agreed with the sentiments in a letter Issa wrote to USA Today last year, stating that the American people want a government of checks and balances run by adults who are not looking for political points.

However, Cummings expressed concern over unsubstantiated statements made by Issa and his staff, as well as questions about the use of taxpayer dollars to fund “Oversight Productions” and “Issa Enterprises,” two new sub-units of the committee created by Issa that engage in activities that appear to have little to do with official committee business.

(Copyright 2011 by All Rights Reserved.)