Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) talked a big talk when he was preparing to take over as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2010. He promised “hundreds of hearings” intended to “measure failures” by the federal government under President Obama. His office was inundated with resumes from conservative lawyers looking to make a name for themselves as Obama killers. Issa even changed his Twitter avatar into a braggadocious image of himself as a stick-figure policeman sternly keeping watch over the Capitol.
A year and a half later, all those eager young lawyers who took jobs under Issa might be reconsidering their career choice. As Oversight Chair, Issa’s proved far more adept at booking himself on Fox News than he has at actually uncovering real scandals. He’s used his media celebrity status to tout bizarre conspiracy theories, such as a claim that a series of botched law enforcement operations begun under the Bush Administration were actually secret Obama plot to undermine the Second Amendment. His highest profile hearing to date was an all-male panel on contraception that did far more to embarrass conservatives than it did to provide government oversight. Issa’s compared himself to Martin Luther King, Jr. in response to criticism of how he wields his gavel. And he turned oversight of one of the few legitimate scandals his Committee has focused upon — the botched “gun running” operations along the Mexican border that rightfully led to several Justice Department officials losing their jobs or being demoted — into a baseless campaign to pin blame for these operations on Attorney General Eric Holder.
Indeed, Issa’s overreach has become so apparent that even the House leadership appears to be losing faith in his judgment:
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California have decided to slow Rep. Darrell Issa’s drive to hold the attorney general in contempt over the controversial Fast and Furious program, a move that could infuriate conservatives who have been calling for Holder’s resignation.
The delay could be a month or even longer, according to lawmakers and aides familiar with the issue.
Some within House GOP leadership circles would like Issa to abandon his plan for a committee and floor vote, which was sparked by a 64-page memo last week, which laid out the case for contempt.
This is not the first time Issa’s self-promoting approach to his job sparked tension between himself and other top House Republicans. Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) publicly disagreed with Issa’s hostile approach to an agreement between the Obama Administration and the auto industry over emissions standards. And Issa “ruffled the feathers” of fellow committee chair John Mica (R-FL) after Issa appeared to push Mica out of the spotlight once a scandal involving the General Services Administration started to receive media attention.
Nevertheless, the most recent disagreement over whether to move forward with Issa’s anti-Holder crusade appears to be the first time the House’s most senior leaders publicly made their disagreement with Issa known, and that alone is significant. When even Eric Cantor thinks you are overreaching, it’s a good sign that you might need to dial it back a few notches.