Issa and Obama: At Odds, but Not at War

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, swiftly assumed chairmanship of the committee - and he's made it clear that he won't be shy about investigating the Obama administration. (Or, <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/44648.html">for that matter</a>, the George W. Bush administration.) So far, he's targeted stimulus spending, financial bailouts, and health care reform. <br><br>But Issa denies charges that his goal is to bring down President Obama. "My job is not to bring down the president. My job is to make the president a success," he said on November 2, <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/44648.html">according to</a> Politico. CBS/AP

Darrell Issa, Barack Obama
CBS/AP

When he takes over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) plans to hold President Obama's feet to the fire on everything from the war in Afghanistan to his administration's handling of the foreclosure crisis. But his goals for ridding Washington of waste, fraud and abuse may not always pit the aggressive Republican against the president.

In his rough agenda for the upcoming year, obtained by CBS News, Issa lays out a plan for a series of far-reaching hearings that will investigate the Food and Drug Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, corruption in Afghanistan, the government's response to Wikileaks, the shortcomings of the Financial Crisis Commission, and the impact of regulation on job creation. Cutting waste and fraud will be at the heart of every hearing, according to Issa's staff.

Appearing on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Issa said the primary goal of his committee will be to help restore the economy and save taxpayer money. He said that with proper oversight, the government could save about $200 billion.

"The number one thing for all of us as Republicans is jobs and the economy, but also the confidence in government," he said.

What he won't focus on, Issa said, is going after the president for the sake of politics.

Contrary to some reporting today, Issa did not say over the weekend that the Obama administration was one of the "most corrupt."

Issa made that remark in the past, but when CBS News anchor Harry Smith asked Issa about this earlier statement, the congressman walked back from it. Issa interrupted Smith to say, "I walked back very quickly and said it's about the money the administration has had in a loose fashion. It's more about Congress' mistake in funding."

Over the past year, Issa has frequently served as the administration's chief adversary; he questioned whether the White House broke the law by offering Rep. Joe Sestak a job during the midterm elections, for instance, and he served as an outspoken critic of the stimulus package.

Yet on CNN today, Issa acknowledged that both Democrats and Republicans engage in the kind of politicking that Issa perceived as unethical in the case of Sestak's job offer, and he said he would not bother investigating the matter any further.

"It was wrong if it was done in the Bush administration. It's wrong in the Obama administration," he said. "But remember, the focus of our committee has always been, and you look at all the work I've done over the past four years on the oversight committee; it has been consistently about looking for waste, fraud and abuse. That's the vast majority of what we do."

Meanwhile, Issa's interest in scrutinizing the stimulus package earned him a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden recently. And on "Face the Nation," the congressman praised Earl Devaney, Mr. Obama's appointee in charge of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board.

"Earl Devaney who's headed up the stimulus, he's the chairman over there, has done some innovative work to show us how we can find a lot of that fraud and shut it off," Issa said.

In his committee agenda, Issa's office said it would explore ways to to expand Devaney's stimulus tracking system to all federal spending programs and aggressively explore other ways to reduce wasteful federal spending.

Similarly, when Mr. Obama announced his proposal for a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers in November, he emphasized, "From the earliest days of my administration, we've worked to eliminate wasteful spending and streamline government."

Mr. Obama pointed out that in the two budgets his administration has put forward, they have proposed approximately $20 billion in savings through shrinking or ending more than 120 government programs that "have outlived their usefulness." The president said the government is on tract to reducing improper payments by $50 billion, saving $40 billion in contracting, and selling off $8 billion of unneeded federal land and buildings.

Of course, Issa is very likely to butt heads with members of the president's administration when it comes to scrutinizing regulatory agencies. While the administration will try to advance some goals like energy reform through regulation, Issa is working on the premise that regulations slow down progress.

Yet Issa pointed out on "Face the Nation" that even Mr. Obama acknowledged the short comings of bureaucracy late last year when he said, "There's no such thing as shovel-ready projects."

Issa intends to press the administration on a host of other issues that could be tough for the White House to address. The congressman, for instance, has been highly critical of Attorney General Eric Holder and his handling of issues such as the Wikileaks release of State Department cables. Issa also plans to investigate corruption in Afghanistan -- a problem the administration made no direct mention of in its recent review of the war.

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