The California congressman said during a rare New Hampshire tour that he's not interested in running for the White House, but wants to play a key role as voters here and in other early voting states begin to vet 2016 presidential contenders.
"I came here to hopefully shape the debate for 2016 — not join it, but shape it," he said in a Monday night speech, the first of three scheduled public appearances over two days in the state that traditionally hosts the nation's first presidential primary election.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa is probing some of the Obama administration's most provocative controversies: the troubled rollout of the health care website, the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of politically active groups, the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' phone records and the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed three Americans.
Issa repeatedly referred to Obama missteps on issues that resonate with anti-government tea party supporters and Republican establishment figures alike, wings of the party deeply divided over government fixes on immigration, foreign policy and spending programs. Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should she run for president.
Issa did not back away from questions about Clinton.
He said she played a central role in the immediate aftermath of the attack: "Hillary Clinton knew what was going on and conveyed that to the president." He later clarified, "The accountability for the action and inaction belongs to the two top informed individuals who were awake: (Defense Secretary) Leon Panetta and Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Issa's remarks come as New Hampshire primary season approaches.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's most recent vice presidential candidate, was scheduled to visit the state Tuesday evening. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and 2012 contender Rick Santorum have agreed to March appearances, while other Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul already have traveled to New Hampshire in recent months.
Issa offered a warning for prospective Republican candidates.
"For too long, the Republican Party has been about Republican ideas of bigger government versus Democratic ideas of bigger government," he said, suggesting that Republicans use "shame" if necessary to get other Republicans in line. "Republicans have to stop talking about new solutions that come with new government programs."
Issa was scheduled to attend a Tuesday morning fundraiser followed by a speech to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics before returning to California.
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