Congressman from Vista gains high profile leading Benghazi and IRS probes
By Mark Walker
11:34 a.m.May 26, 2013
After toiling in the margins of Congress for more than a decade, Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista is becoming a major force in American politics.
His emergence as one of Washington’s most powerful lawmakers is rooted in his role investigating the Internal Revenue Service tea party scandal and the deadly security lapses at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Issa is commanding the national spotlight as the Republican Party’s leading voice on those controversies, setting much of the political agenda in Washington these days after a relatively quiet first two years as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
His stepped-up probes have helped derail many of President Barack Obama’s early second-term plans, and he will likely keep trying to put the administration on the defensive.
If that weren’t enough, he is co-author of a newly released House immigration bill for highly skilled foreign workers.
Vilified by the political left and hailed by the right, he’s also become a regular guest on Fox News and the Sunday news shows. And two weeks ago, in another indicator of his rising prominence, Issa was spoofed on “Saturday Night Live.”
These are indeed heady days for the 59-year-old Issa, a self-made multimillionaire who still travels home on commercial planes virtually every weekend and can be spotted on late-night grocery runs at Stater Brothers or picking up supplies at Home Depot for the latest project at his Vista residence.
“It’s easy for me to be the outspoken one, but there are plenty of Democrats who think this administration is opaque,” he said Friday. “They don’t want transparency, and they don’t want Republican congressmen asking questions.”
But ask he will, and the Benghazi and IRS hearings have fired up the GOP base and engendered confidence among colleagues. He’s primed to vie for a House leadership post when his term as Oversight Committee chairman expires at the end of 2014 — an unlikely prospect just two years ago.
During his media appearances in recent weeks, Issa has generally used a measured tone to advance his view of the Obama administration as replete with incompetent officials out to mislead Congress and stonewall investigations.
Critics continue to accuse him of blindly pursuing a partisan smear campaign based on little to no evidence. In an interview with U-T San Diego, though, he acknowledged his newfound efforts to display restraint.
Part of this approach, he added, is an outgrowth of the country’s desire for political parties to cooperate more for the common good.
“They want us to work together, and although that can be extremely difficult, I can show the effort,” Issa said. “My hand is always out to the Democrats we work with, and if you do that, you set a tone.”
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