Video Assumes GOP Will Wrest Control Of House
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And with Republicans riding a wave of good polls and Tea Party energy, they could well find themselves in charge of the House of Representatives when the New Year begins. This week, House Republicans released a video, saying their party is ready to embrace a new mandate from voters.
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Unidentified Woman: Republicans have heard you.
Representative DARRELL ISSA (Republican, California): We're looking to make Washington accountable again.
MONTAGNE: That last voice belongs to California Congressman Darrell Issa. He's one of several Republicans expected to be moving into the spotlight, if public opinion surveys prove correct.
Here's NPR's Audie Cornish.
AUDIE CORNISH: If GOP lawmakers are measuring the proverbial drapes on leadership offices around Capitol Hill, who are among the first in line with the tape measure? Ranking Republicans members on key House committees, says Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont College.
Professor JACK PITNEY (Political science, Claremont College): When Newt Gingrich was Speaker, a lot of decisions were made in the Speaker's office and John Boehner's indicated that he would run things differently. There's no question that the committee chairs are going to be extremely important in filling in the details of what the Republicans want to do.
CORNISH: Pitney says keep an eye on two potential committee leaders to help carry out the mandate to cut, gut, and investigate the Democrats' agenda. They're Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, the ranking member on the budget committee, and California's Darrell Issa, top Republican on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Let's start with Issa.
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CORNISH: His office posts Dragnet-type videos online about Oversight Committee investigations.
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Representative DARRELL ISSA (Republican, California): Ladies and gentlemen, the story you're about to see is true. The names haven't been changed to protect the taxpayers.
CORNISH: From his minority perch, Issa kicked off the skirmish over the Democrat's attempt to lure Congressman Joe Sestak out of the Pennsylvania Senate race and criticized stimulus act roadsides as propaganda. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Issa embraced the moniker of annoyer and chief.
Congressman ISSA: If you try to hold the administrator accountable from the minority when you have no power, the most I can do is get the press to ask a lot of questions and annoy them, ultimately I have no authority. In the majority, yes, I want government to do what it's supposed to do and nothing more. I want it...
CORNISH: Danielle Brian of the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight says Issa has already flagged his priorities in a report issued last month. She says about 85 percent of it made a lot of sense. The other 15 percent...
Ms. DANIELLE BRIAN (Project on Government Oversight): Investigation into ACORN, Climategate, those are things that I'm looking at thinking those are those really are partisan. I'm not sure what we're going to get from Congress doing investigation to them. But at the same time, you look at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the SEC, the Department of Interior's oversight of oil and gas, he has a wide range of subjects that are absolutely right on.
CORNISH: Beyond oversight, Republicans are promising to cut spending and rearrange the Obama administration's budget priorities. And the budget committee's Paul Ryan could be a key player in that effort.
Congressman PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): I think the American people are ready to be talked to like adults and not like children.
CORNISH: The GOP's recent manifesto, the Pledge to America, is light on specific policy provisions. But Ryan has been pushing his own proposals around Capitol Hill for months. In a paper titled, "Roadmap for America," he says Social Security should include the option for private investment accounts. And Medicare should move towards a voucher program for seniors to buy private insurance.
Out on the campaign trail, Democrats have been denouncing those ideas and Republicans have not exactly embraced them. But Ryan defended the lukewarm response in an interview this past spring with NPR.
Congressman RYAN: Both parties are ducking the responsibility for fixing these problems. They do so because they have political fear that the other side will lynch them in the next election. Im not trying to say that I, Paul Ryan, have all the answers and here is the plan from on high. What I wanted to do was, here's how I would fix our fiscal situation, and I'm trying to get other people to come with their plans.
CORNISH: Still the election is 12 days away, so GOP leaders are hardly appointing a committee chairman yet. And with the potential for an influx of assertive Tea Party freshman, it could be a while before it's clear who's really running the show.
Audie Cornish, NPR News, the Capitol.
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