A spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden insists meetings Biden is holding with top stimulus officials before his face-off with top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa are “routine” and “unrelated” to the upcoming confrontation between the two on stimulus-related matters.
Biden agreed to meet with Issa in the wake of the Nov. 2 election in which Republicans took over control of the House and made major gains in the Senate.
The meeting, regarding Issa’s proposals for stimulus transparency, will form the crucial first encounter between Issa – President Obama’s chief congressional tormentor – and the Obama White House since Issa became the House Oversight Committee Chairman-elect on Nov. 2.
Biden, who Monday postponed the meeting until Congress comes back for its lame duck session, citing a “scheduling conflict,” has been meeting with top stimulus oversight officials including stimulus oversight czar Earl Devaney and top Justice Department (DOJ) official and former Clinton administration scandal guru Lanny Breuer.
Breuer, who heads DOJ’s criminal investigations division, plays a role in preventing fraud in implementation of the stimulus, an aspect of stimulus implementation where the administration has been successful.
Breuer also served former President Bill Clinton as one of the most effective members of Clinton’s scandal team, formed in response to an onslaught of subpoenas and political attacks from the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Congress in the mid-1990s.
Biden met with Devaney and Breuer Monday and is meeting with Devaney again today.
Jay Carney, Biden’s spokesman, said the meetings are “routine” and “unrelated” to the pending face-off with Issa, citing Biden’s role in the administration of overseeing the stimulus and an upcoming conference in Philadelphia for which the veep needs to prepare.
The main purpose of the meeting Monday was to prepare for an upcoming National Procurement and Grant Fraud conference in Philadelphia next week.
Carney went as far as to say Issa likely did not even come up in the meeting and noted Biden’s public agreement with a key plank of Issa’s proposals.
“I did not attend, but it is my understanding that Rep. Issa’s proposals were not discussed at yesterday’s meeting. As an aside, you may know that one of Rep. Issa’s proposals – more penalties for non-reporting – is something the Vice President publicly endorsed months ago,” Carney said.
Carney said today’s meeting regards a routine update on the “Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board” – colloquially known as the “RAT Board.”
“It is part of his job to have regular meetings with the Vice President. There have been many such meetings in the past,” Carney said.
Meanwhile, Issa’s staff continues to work on compiling its unanswered questions from Issa’s last two years of oversight as ranking member of the oversight committee.
However, the sheer volume of those inquires – which includes reams of unanswered letters and many more informal information requests – is such that it will not be until 2011 that Issa’s staff releases a full archive of the material, a spokesman said.
In a conference call with reporters in the bask of the huge Republican victories on Election Night, Issa said obtaining answers to his previous correspondence will form his first step as a newly empowered chairman-elect.