Hypocrisy in the House

Posted: Sunday, January 09, 2011

Last summer the Obama administration asked the Business Roundtable to provide a list of regulations that slowed economic growth and job creation. The result was a 54-page document from some of America’s leading companies.

Yet when House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., recently did the same thing — asking 150 trade groups, companies and think tanks to identify job-killing regulations — he was lambasted by Democrats.

“Inviting businesses to tell us what they want us to do, as opposed to protecting the American people, certainly gives me great concern,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., on MSNBC’s “Hardball.”

The Democratic National Committee’s Brad Woodhouse said in Politico: “This really says it all about whose interests the GOP is really out to protect — and it’s not middle-class families.”

President Obama, meanwhile, will reportedly address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in February, a significant development considering his tenuous relationship with the powerful business group.

The latest White House charm offensive comes six months after the Business Roundtable submitted its letter of “policy burdens inhibiting economic growth” at the request of Peter Orszag, former director of Obama’s Office of Management and Budget.

The Business Roundtable’s list was notably long. The leaders behind the letter — the CEOs of MasterCard, Dow Chemical, ArvinMeritor, Systems Applications and Products, and Yahoo, as well as the heads of the Business Roundtable and The Business Council — expressed concern about a variety of policies, from the Employee Free Choice Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, to attempts to mitigate greenhouse gases, the health care overhaul and financial regulatory reform.

“We believe the cumulative effect of these proposals will help defeat the objectives we all share — reducing unemployment, improving the competitiveness of U.S. companies, and creating an environment that fosters long-term economic growth,” the letter stated.

Less than a month ago, Obama again sought suggestions — this time from the CEOs of Google, Intel, Comcast, PepsiCo, Dow Chemical Co., Cisco Systems, Motorola, Duke Energy and more — in his largest private meeting with business executives since he entered the White House.

The group included some of the same companies that Issa addressed in his letters.

That hasn’t fazed the left. They’re mounting even more attacks. The Center for American Progress, for example, declared, “House GOP Ushers In Corporate Takeover” — citing Issa’s outreach to businesses as proof.

Issa isn’t backing down.

“What we’ve learned is that Elijah Cummings and the DNC don’t believe it is productive to talk to job creators about job creation, unless you’re the president or the White House,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Issa. “Cummings says he wants Issa to get facts first and make judgments second, but when Issa tries to do that, Cummings rushes to judgment and attacks. Where were all of Cummings’ and the DNC’s outrage and concern when the president had a CEO roundtable a few weeks ago?”

It’s a good question, but don’t expect an answer. Neither Cummings nor Woodhouse responded to our calls.

Issa will be a frequent target over the next two years. He has promised an aggressive agenda for the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the 112th Congress — and for good reason.

With the Obama administration dealing with fewer allies in the legislative branch, it has already begun using executive action to implement regulations that wouldn’t pass muster in Congress.

Two such examples happened just before Christmas, when few were watching. Both the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules on Dec. 23 that increase federal authority. The EPA wants impose new measures on oil refineries and power plants — regulations that will impede job creation.

Those are worthwhile topics for oversight hearings. Issa shouldn’t be ridiculed for doing his job. Americans should applaud him for seeking the facts.

• Rob Bluey and Tina Korbe work for The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy. Readers may write to the authors in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.

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