Can Republicans Investigate Obamacare Without Making Fools of Themselves?

| Thu Oct. 24, 2013 11:18 AM EDT

The latest from Capitol Hill is a Republican push to investigate the Obamacare rollout and get to the bottom of what happened. Greg Sargent comments:

Interestingly, Republicans believe the new push will get the public to forget GOP excesses during the last battle — even though both revolve around the party’s central organizing point, i.e., the drive to destroy the Affordable Care Act before it’s too late. As the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker put it: “House GOP leaders are looking to revive their majority’s political strength by focusing on the nuts and bolts of legislating, a policy agenda centered on jobs and economic growth — and concerted oversight of Obamacare, a law still unpopular with many Americans.”

....Serious Congressional oversight would be absolutely welcome here. The question is, are House Republicans capable of supplying it? Obamacare’s problems are inexcusable, and there should be accountability for them. There are real and legitimate problems here that could be exposed.

But when it comes to supplying genuine oversight, previous House GOP probes — into Benghazi and the IRS scandal — devolved into circus stunts. Those investigations got knocked off kilter by lurid and fanciful charges that seemed directed at a hard right audience that remains firmly in the grip of the conservative closed information feedback loop.

Yep, that's a good question, all right. I doubt it, because I doubt that Darrell Issa has learned his lesson from the events of the past year. I don't really blame him for the IRS scandal going south, since that one truly did look legit at first and it was a helluva juicy target. But his overreach on Benghazi likely ruined what could have been a decent investigation. I don't think Republicans would ever have found a big-time smoking gun in Benghazi, but a more sober investigation might very well have done some damage, especially since Republicans basically had the press on their side. Instead, they went bananas, and the investigation became a joke.

Ditto for the recent government shutdown. Republicans overreached, and instead of winning a modest political victory that might have been popular with the public, they became the target of massive public anger.

There's plenty of meat available in an investigation of the Obamacare rollout. But a good investigation will go slowly, taking pains not to drown officials in a blizzard of subpoenas while they're in the middle of fighting a fire. A good investigation will also focus a lot of its effort on real issues of procurement and how the federal government handles IT projects. It won't be just a fishing expedition for emails that might be embarrassing to Obama staffers.

There will almost certainly be plenty of the latter. There's already evidence that political considerations contributed to Obamacare's rollout problems. But those will get exposed in a serious investigation. Maybe it will take a little longer, but they'll come.

Can Issa restrain his attack dog personality enough to understand that? Will the tea party caucus allow it? Or will the whole thing quickly devolve into a barrage of subpoenas that are so obviously politically motivated that no one takes them seriously anymore? We'll see, but I'd put my money on the latter right now.

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