Politics, government and public life for Southern California

How to rate the work of Darrell Issa's Oversight committee?

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Darrell Issa had a busy year on Capitol Hill.

The south Orange County Republican heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has investigated everything from the attack on Americans in Benghazi to IRS scrutiny of tea party groups. 

Issa usually opens hearings with the raison d’être of the oversight committee: "Our solemn responsibility is to hold government accountable to taxpayers, because taxpayers have a right to know what they get from their government."

In 2013, in addition to hearings on Benghazi and the IRS, Issa chaired hearings on overtime abuse at the Department of Homeland Security and postal reform. "Do I think we’ve made a difference?" Issa asks. "Some."

Issa says you can’t judge effectiveness by the number of bills an investigation produces.  He says he's shed light "on things that were wrong" and trusts his legacy to history and let "a lot of other people" decide.

Marc Sandelow, who teaches political science at the University of California’s D.C. Center, agrees that it’s too early to judge Issa’s effectiveness.

Sandelow has a different complaint, saying it's a "shame they don’t go after both parties equally." He says oversight hearings – like everything else in Washington these days – have become hyper-partisan. And it’s not just Issa. "He has gone after Democrats almost exclusively. The same way that [Henry] Waxman, when he was in power, went after Republicans almost exclusively." (L.A. Democrat Waxman was the chairman of oversight from 2006-09.)

So far, the calendar for 2014 oversight hearings is empty; Issa returns as chairman when Congress returns to work January 7th. 

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