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Has Darrell Issa gone rogue?

Darrell Issa
Darrell Issa
Drew Angerer, Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

A group of House Republicans (and one Democrat) led by House Oversight chair Darrell Issa has traveled to Central America on a fact-finding mission related to the child migrant crisis. This is a little strange, since a different group of House Republicans just returned from a very similar trip days ago — a trip organized and approved by House leadership. Though Issa's office denies it, Jonathan Strong of Breitbart News quotes a Republican source calling Issa's trip a "rival" effort to the leadership's.

If Strong's source is accurate, this is only the latest sign of tensions between Issa and GOP leaders. The jurisdiction of Issa's Oversight committee, which handles investigations, sometimes overlaps with the jurisdiction of more topic-oriented committees. For instance, both Issa and Armed Services chair Buck McKeon are investigating the Benghazi attacks, and Issa and Ways and Means chair Dave Camp are both investigating the IRS scandal.

But the frustrations with Issa go beyond that — House leadership gradually became fed up with his handling of his investigations. In March, Roll Call's David Hawkings outlined House leadership's frustration with Issa's "antics," writing that Issa-led investigations repeatedly caused spectacles that detracted from the message Boehner wanted to push. "Expect him to be under a very tight leadership leash," Hawkings wrote. Soon afterward, a Politico story quoted several House Republicans (most anonymously) who were unhappy with Issa's handling of his investigation into the IRS.

Weeks after that, Issa earned what Politico called "a rare rebuke" from a fellow GOP committee chair. Issa had held a hearing on Benghazi spotlighting the testimony of retired Brigadier General Robert Lovell, who argued that State Department officials delayed a military response on the night of the attack. Yet Armed Services chair Buck McKeon issued a statement calling Lovell's testimony uninformed and unreliable. (ABC News quoted a source saying that Issa "flipped out" in response.)

Finally, in May, Boehner handed off the investigation of the Benghazi attacks to a newly-created select committee — taking the marquee issue out of Issa's hands (and McKeon's). Boehner did this over Issa's opposition, the Daily Beast reported. So it's not a surprise that Issa would be willing to step on the leadership's toes when it comes to the migrant crisis.

At the end of this year, Issa is scheduled to be term-limited out of his position as House Oversight Committee chair — though he's publicly said he'd like to keep the job anyway. He isn't going quietly. In June, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank described the amusing spectacle of Issa and House Ways and Means Committee chair Dave Camp competing to hold the first hearing on Lois Lerner's missing emails:

When word came last week that the IRS had lost the e-mails, Camp's panel said it would hold a hearing with Koskinen (voluntarily) appearing on Tuesday, June 24. Ten minutes after that announcement, Issa proclaimed that he was issuing a subpoena to Koskinen to force his appearance the night before Camp's hearing - at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 23. The commissioner then discovered another opening in his schedule - and Camp leapfrogged Issa, moving his hearing up to Friday, June 20. This left Issa in the unenviable position of holding a rare nighttime hearing Monday - and all the urgency it conveys - to question a witness who already had been thoroughly and fiercely cross-examined three days earlier.

And as of this month, Issa's now found a new issue to get involved in — the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that he's launched a probe into the Export-Import Bank.