Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Issa Overview Of More Repug Obstruction

(And I also posted here.)

Repug U.S. House Rep Darrell Issa tells us the following over at The Hill (here)…

If you’re looking for a blueprint of what type of oversight agenda we should pursue next year, regardless of whether or not Republicans are in the majority or minority, these hearings requested by the Republican minority but ignored by the Democratic majority are a good start:

Food Safety - In 2009, following a salmonella outbreak in a Georgia peanut plant that led to at least 8 deaths and more than 500 illnesses, I sent a letter to Chairman Towns requesting a hearing on the federal food safety bureaucracy, citing a GAO report that identified 15 different federal agencies responsible for administering 30 food safety-related laws and noting that “our Committee is uniquely positioned to look at the coordination and cooperation amongst departments and agencies.”
As noted here, Issa voted against Food Safety regulation amendments (7/30/09) and an FDA appropriation (10/7/09).


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – Despite the role Fannie and Freddie played in the financial crisis and the huge financial stakes for the American taxpayer involved in continuing to prop up these organizations, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill did nothing to address them and Treasury Secretary Geithner announced that the administration would not produce a plan to reform Fannie and Freddie until 2011.
As noted here…

Mortgage lenders sell mortgages to the GSEs (like Fannie and Freddie) for the same reason that Proctor & Gamble sells Tide to Walmart. That's their business model. Every sale of a pool of mortgages is "exclusive" because you can't sell the same mortgage to two different people. And if, as Issa claims, Countrywide sold mortgages to Fannie at a "discounted rate," then Fannie got a windfall. Of course, Issa's amorphous reference to a "discounted rate," in the context of nothing, is meaningless.

The GSEs didn't buy or insure subprime mortgages. They only purchased subprime mortgage securities sold by investment banks. (That was how the GSEs did an end-run around their own underwriting standards.) There's no evidence that Countrywide needed the GSEs to make its subprime bonds marketable. Countrywide's primary connection with the GSEs, which long predated its involvement in the subprime segment, was selling prime mortgages. Countrywide was the biggest mortgage lender, period. (The conspiracy theory) relies on a six-degrees-of-separation conflation, wherein some Fannie Mae employee, who may or may not have had anything to do with the firm's portfolio criteria, gets a loan from the nation's largest mortgage lender at market rates, and suddenly there's a conspiracy theory to explain the subprime meltdown.

Wasteful Stimulus Spending – The Republican minority has provided the Democratic majority with evidence of government agencies wasting stimulus funds on projects of dubious merit that appear to contradict the administration’s stated goals for stimulus-worthy projects and that therefore are ripe for oversight. For example, the committee minority requested in a letter that the committee hold a hearing to scrutinize hundreds of thousands of dollars for wasteful projects funded by the National Endowment for the Arts through ARRA.
As noted here…

Issa, of course, was one of the Republicans who led the charge against the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" earlier this year, at that time using the presence of $50 million in emergency funding for the NEA as a way to tar the whole idea of stimulus as a boondoggle. So was (Sen. John) Cornyn. So, here you have the absurd spectacle of politicians who are ideologically opposed to government art support, who have themselves explicitly "politicized" the NEA by using it as a political prop, claiming to stick up for the sacred principle of NEA independence.

…here’s the thing: Pretty much all of the sinister-sounding stuff about the NEA conference call -- the idea of an "implied threat of withholding future grants," the idea that Obama was trying to build a "propaganda machine" -- does not stem from the actual substance of the call, the transcript of which has now been posted online. Rather, these insinuations can be traced back to the original source of the story, an essay titled "The National Endowment for the Art of Persuasion?," by Patrick Courrielche, posted on the conservative website
As usual with this stuff, all slimy roads eventually lead back to Breitbart (or his equally foul protégé).


Minerals Management Service – The last time Republicans had subpoena power was in 2006, where as a subcommittee chairman I used it to compel the testimony of oil executives and expose cozy relationship with the Minerals Management Service (MMS) - the federal entity charged with over-seeing oil companies and their drilling activities. In wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, we need to ensure that reforms within the bureaucracy are happening and working.
Funny that Issa apparently never brought this up to Tom Davis when Davis chaired the House Oversight Committee earlier this decade (this provides the gory details), and Issa was a member of that committee (would have made much more of an impact as opposed to now…and it tells you something about the Republican Party that someone like Tom Davis is apparently no longer welcome).


School Choice – The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) was launched by Congress in 2004, with bipartisan support, to give economically disadvantaged District of Columbia children the chance for a quality education outside of public school classrooms plagued by problems. The program has been proven highly successful by every known measurement, including academic improvement, personal safety, and parental satisfaction. A strong coalition of academics, journalists and civic leaders are supporting reauthorization of OSP in the House and Senate. However, the Obama administration is now phasing out the program.
As noted here, President Obama included voucher funding through the end of this year, but an amendment to extend vouchers beyond that point (sponsored by John Ensign Edwards (just wanted to see if you were paying attention), when he wasn’t busy paying off the cuckolded husband of an aide with whom he was having an affair) failed in the Senate 50-39 (OMG, you mean a Dem actually filibustered? Call David Broder – we have a breach of “bipartisanship” :-).

And as the no-longer-Moonie Times noted here…

Democrats such as Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, as well as teachers' unions, voiced concern that the vouchers take federal funds from the public schools.

Mr. Durbin said in response to Mr. Ensign on Tuesday that the General Accountability Office looked at the voucher schools and found some "world class" schools as well as some below average schools, explaining his reasoning for examining the program further before reauthorization.

"They also found schools where somebody's mom or somebody's wife declared themselves principles and teachers and went in to teach without college degrees and received federal subsidies to do it," he said.

Mr. Durbin said safety, teacher's degrees and standardized tests were not held to public school levels. He said that "those on the other side" have "completely given up on D.C. Public Schools" and that Mr. Ensign's amendment would further the schools' destruction.
I would say that there’s more than enough material in Issa’s column to justify a debate with his congressional opponent over his philosophy of government and the role of the minority party in crafting legislation to serve the public interest.

Oh, wait (and here is another highly “un-serious” Issa moment).

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