Vice President Joe Biden is huddling with the Obama administration’s stimulus oversight czar and a key former Clinton administration scandal guru after postponing the Obama White House’s first face-off with top GOP oversight chairman-to-be Rep. Darrell Issa.
Biden’s meeting with Issa will form the crucial first encounter in a high-stakes oversight game set to play out over at least the next two years, as Republicans take over the House and assume subpoena power, granting them access to virtually any document in the White House’s file cabinets.
A spokesman for Biden cited a “scheduling conflict” in postponing the face-off, which is now expected to take place when Congress returns to Washington for its lame duck session.
Meanwhile, Biden is huddling today with two key members of the administration.
Most importantly, Biden will meet with Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division.
Breuer served as one of the most effective members of a scandal response team during the Clinton administration, which was then under siege from an onslaught of subpoenas and political attacks from the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Congress.
Now, he is a top ranking official at the Justice Department. The meeting is purportedly about stimulus implementation.
As head of DOJ’s criminal investigations, Breuer has no significant role in stimulus implementation, though DOJ spokeswoman Laura Sweeney pointed to Breuer’s involvement on a financial fraud task force. Breuer is part of a working group focused on stimulus fraud, Sweeney said.
Biden’s spokesman Jay Carney said Biden’s meeting with Breuer was “long-planned” and “unrelated” to Biden’s meeting with Issa. However, Carney would not say what the meeting was about.
Biden’s second meeting today is with Earl Devaney, the top oversight official for the stimulus.
Overall, Biden has taken a lead role in the Obama White House on stimulus implementation. Biden produced a report Oct. 1 which argued the stimulus had succeeded in “creating or saving” 3.3 million jobs. However, the unemployment rate has far outstripped projections made by the administration when selling the stimulus to Congress.
Issa requested the meeting with Biden to address lingering transparency issues for the stimulus, including the lack of enforcement mechanisms for those who do not comply with the law’s requirements, and to push for subpoena power for 74 inspectors general (IG) who oversee the vast federal bureaucracy.
Issa has said subpoena power – which allows those who hold it to legally compel the disclosure of documents or testimony – is key to ensuring effective oversight by the IGs.
“Following Tuesday’s election, the Congressman reached out to the Vice President to express his eagerness to begin addressing some of the major shortcomings that relates to how we track stimulus dollars and enforce the reporting requirements,” said Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella.
“Currently, the Inspector General community, including the one who oversees the stimulus, does not have subpoena power. While the AARA mandates that recipients of recovery act dollars report what they’re doing with that money, there is no enforcement mechanism to compel their compliance with the law’s supposed mandate for transparency. That’s both unacceptable and easy to remedy. The Congressman intends on pursuing immediate fixes to these problems, hopefully the White House will join us and support this effort,” Bardella said.
Ed. note: This article has been updated to reflect new information provided by the Justice Department regarding Breuer’s role in the financial fraud task force.