The View from the Grandstand: House Hearings Get Underway in Earnest

Yesterday definitely felt like a kickoff to House Republicans using the committee hearing process for their own ends. I wrote about the hearing in the Oversight Committee, where Darrell Issa tackled TARP and the foreclosure crisis. Issa stumbled a bit trying to say that banks should be broken up, but also, not:

“I’m not for breaking up companies or taking a heavy hand,” Mr. Issa said. “But if Bank of America is too big to fail, then shouldn’t we be insisting that they be — and I’m not suggesting this — but shouldn’t we be suggesting that they find a way to not be too big to fail in whatever kind of divestitures they need, rather than putting them in that category” of companies that are “effectively backstopped by the federal government?”

A spokesman cleared things up by saying that Issa meant there should be no government guarantee. Resolution authority is supposed to go this route, and I’ll believe that when I see it during the next crisis in year 2 of the Romney Administration.

But that wasn’t all yesterday. Republicans questioned Cass Sunstein over regulations in an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. Most of the hearing consisted of rhetorical questions that Sunstein was forced to answer. Clearly the White House got nowhere with its “streamline regulations” maneuver.

There were two hearings yesterday on the health care law, which is interesting because the House already did all the legislative work it wants to do on it by repealing it. There’s supposed to be some kind of “replacement” legislation eventually, but these hearings had nothing to do with that. It just lined up conservative mouthpieces to talk about the burdens of the law they just repealed. Austan Goolsbee of the White House Council of Economic Advisers was there to take his medicine as well.

“The hearing today is just our first of many,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) at the outset. “It is my intention to give the American people and employers big and small the opportunity they never had when this law was being written to testify in an open hearing about the impact the law will have on them.”

Sounds like a great start to writing a new law.

Finally, the House Armed Services Committee welcomed the military brass to his hearing room and railed against proposed Pentagon budget cuts, because Republicans are all about reducing the deficit. Actually, there was quite a range of opinion from Republicans, as the military budget will become a source of great difficulty for them.

“I cannot say it strongly enough: I will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform,” Mr. McKeon said in an opening statement that followed up on a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urging him not to stop work on the Marines’ $14.4. billion Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, a combined landing craft and tank for amphibious assaults that Mr. Gates canceled this month.

But Representative Chris Gibson, a Tea Party-endorsed freshman Republican and a retired Army colonel from New York’s Hudson River Valley, made it clear that no part of the Pentagon’s $550 billion budget — some $700 billion including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — was immune.

“This deficit that we have threatens our very way of life, and everything needs to be on the table,” Mr. Gibson told William J. Lynn III, the deputy defense secretary, who testified at the hearing along with Gen. Peter J. Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army, and other service vice chiefs.

Sadly, I believe that enough defense contractors are spread around enough districts that most of the obsolete weapons on the chopping block will survive. And you’ll even have some Democrats in support of that.

So that’s your hearing roundup.

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