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Will Obama's GOP House Watchdogs Be Pesky Or Nightmare?

Rep. Darrell Issa

Obama Administration officials are likely to be seeing a lot more of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) than they would like.   Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

With it looking exceedingly likely that Republicans will capture the House, one of the most interesting questions is about the kind of oversight the new GOP committee chairs exert over the Obama Administration.

Some observers suggest it's not necessarily a given that House Republicans will hound the White House at every turn. The new oversight, while more aggressive than what the administration has gotten accustomed to, won't go to extremes too often since voters wouldn't approve.

The state of partisanship in Washington and the fact that President Barack Obama will be seeking re-election in 2012 would seem to argue otherwise, however. Those in that camp foresee the watchdogs attempting to rip the administration apart.

The question, boiled down to its essentials, is whether the oversight Obama faces from a Republican-led House will be merely pesky or a nightmare? I'm guessing most Washington realists will vote for the nightmare scenario.

It appears the White House is preparing itself for a worst-case scenario.

Christi Parsons and Peter Nicholas recently reported in the Los Angeles Times that the White House is reviewing how many lawyers it may need to add as Republicans talk about turning the oversight screws.

The White House, anticipating such moves, is considering adding lawyers to its 20-person Office of Legal Counsel, which would be at the forefront of such skirmishes. Officials said they are preparing a post-election strategy likely to feature high-wattage fights between the White House and Congress.

Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post says just how bad it gets for Obama officials depends on which Rep. Darrell Issa shows up, Good Darrell or Bad Darrell, as she puts it.

Issa, a California Republican, is the likely chair of the House Oversight Committee.

As Marcus suggests, at times Issa has sounded conciliatory. At other times, not so much.

A Marcus excerpt:

Good Darrell, writing in USA Today on Oct. 11: "Oversight is not and should not be used as a political weapon against the occupant of the Oval Office. It should not be an instrument of fear or the exclusive domain of the party that controls Congress."

Bad Darrell, to Rush Limbaugh on Oct. 19: "You know, there will be a certain degree of gridlock as the president adjusts to the fact that he has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times."

Ask yourself which of those statements is most likely to galvanize the Republican Party base and play better in GOP fundraising appeals and you may have an answer as to what's likely to happen under the new House regime.

A piece in The Wall Street Journal by Evan Perez adds to the available evidence that the White House's next two years are likely to make many administration officials long for the first two.

The WSJ reported that Senate Republican investigators are investigating the transfer of some Guantanamo detainees by the administration to European governments.

Republicans who have blocked the Obama administration from closing the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects are now questioning its moves to transfer some detainees to Europe.

Republican staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee recently traveled to Spain, Germany, France and other countries to dig for evidence of lax oversight of former detainees transferred there, according to people familiar with the matter.

While these are Senate investigators, it's a safe assumption that House intelligence aides might also probe the transfers, especially since they would be in a position to schedule hearings. That's something Senate Republicans wouldn't have been able to unless they, too, win control of their chamber after next Tuesday's election.

It may prove some comfort to Obama Administration officials to learn that there are some matters House Republican leaders indicate, at least at this point, they don't plan spending time on.

Again, from the LA Times:

Republican House leaders said they would avoid using their power to harass the president, by investigating the president's birth certificate, for example. Obama was born in Hawaii, but some conservatives don't believe it.

"The oversight function needs to be very focused on polices that kill jobs," said Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). "As long as we're focused on trying to right the ship, the American people will support our efforts."

"Policies that kill jobs," however, means that everything other than the president's birth certificate — the economic stimulus, health care, environmental regulations, and the response to the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, for instance — will be on the table.

Administration officials will need to keep their seatbelts buckled because there's likely to be a lot of turbulence.

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