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A prominent House Republican positioning himself as a leading White House watchdog lashed out at Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday for his response to the publication of sensitive U.S. diplomatic and military documents on the whistleblower website Wikileaks.
In an appearance on Fox News, Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, took Holder to task for failing to articulate a decisive legal strategy through which to bring charges against Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
Issa has aired other criticisms of the Holder Justice Department, including its refusal to investigate ACORN, the community organizing and activism group that has been accused of voter registration fraud, and was later caught in a national scandal when conservative activists released tapes that, though discovered to have been heavily edited, appeared to portray employees of the nonprofit organization offering advice on how to conceal prostitution and tax evasion from authorities.
Asked by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace if he believes Holder should step down, Issa replied:
"I think he needs to realize that, for example --Wikileaks -- if the president says, 'I can't deal with this guy as a terrorist,' then he has to be able to deal with him as a criminal. Otherwise the world is laughing at this paper tiger we've become. So he's hurting this administration. If you're hurting the administration, you either stop hurting the administration or leave."
Issa said that Congress was unable to act on whistleblower legislation in the last session due to the significant new dimension that Wikileaks had added to the issue, and pledged to take up the matter early this year in a "mature, bipartisan way."
"We're going to do that right off the bat, because the kind of transparency we need is not to have somebody outing what is said by diplomats in private, and we need to change that," Issa said. "That's going to be a big part of our committee's oversight, is to get that right so that diplomats can do their job with confidence and people can talk to our government with confidence."
Issa has pledged that his committee will launch a rigorous oversight campaign of a variety of Obama administration initiatives as he looks to prune wasteful spending from the federal budget.
Joining him on Fox News Sunday was Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton echoed Issa's calls for tighter executive oversight, saying that GOP members expect to "bring up spending reductions virtually every week."
Upton said that his committee, which has broad jurisdiction over the sweep of U.S. economic activity, will spearhead the effort to repeal President Obama's health-care reform law, either en masse or through incremental legislation. He said that GOP members plan to bring a repeal vote to the floor before the president's State of the Union address later this month.
Upton is also looking to curb efforts at the Environmental Protection Agency to impose regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions. On the tech front, Upton plans to take aim at the Federal Communications Commission's recent vote to enact net neutrality regulations, a move that came without a congressional authorization, and which Upton and other Republicans see as another worrisome sign of regulatory overreach.
"We are not going to let this administration regulate what they have been unable to legislate," he said.