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September 23, 2014

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Steven Horsford, Darrell Issa and Congress’ most politicized committee

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Steve Marcus

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., responds to a question at a town-hall meeting at Cora Coleman Senior Center on Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Las Vegas.

There’s a place in Congress where the nation’s biggest scandals get dissected.

From questionable IRS scrutiny of conservative nonprofits to the 2012 killings of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is on it.

The committee is one of the most politicized place in all of Congress, and Nevada’s Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford is right in the middle of it.

Horsford, who represents North Las Vegas, is helping carry the Democrat’s opposition to the powerful committee chairman, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Democratic leaders named Horsford to the committee in 2013 just after he was seated for his freshman term.

While it is combative, the committee is a plum assignment for lawmakers looking to make a name for themselves with TV interviews on the latest scandal.

Horsford seems to be up to the task. He often stays to the very end of long hearings just so he can object to the premise of it all. That’s what he did during a late June hearing to look into why emails from a key IRS official were missing.

“This hearing has been quite an embarrassment,” Horsford said in a June 24 hearing.

Horsford also had sharp words for Issa in a hearing the night before with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“He’s used this process to politicize the process and to not focus on the proper oversight or government reform function of the committee,” he said.

Horford kept talking during the committee hearing as his five-minute period expired. Then Issa switched off Horsford’s microphone.

Issa’s tight control of the hyper-partisan Oversight committee has already made headlines.

When asked how he handles the committee’s drama, Horsford was characteristically pragmatic.

“It’s my job to represent my constituents who don’t think that that’s the way government should work, that our elected officials should be more responsible and more responsive,” he said.

The committee, Horsford admits, is traditionally used by the opposing party (when it’s in power) to make the White House look bad. But Horsford went on to say Issa has gone well beyond that to “create conspiracies with no evidence.”

Issa has accused the IRS of obstructionism and says those hearings are necessary to uncover the truth behind why tea party groups applying for nonprofit status were singled out by IRS officials for extra scrutiny.

Issa’s staff did not respond to requests for comment on Monday, but the congressman has said his committee is pursuing a legitimate investigation find out what the IRS did wrong and how to prevent the agency from doing it again.

“What we do is we follow the facts. As we get to the facts, we then follow additional facts.” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday’s “State of the Union.” He later said: “We should all be scared, Candy, that the IRS can do this kind of unfair targeting to anybody.”

Democratic leaders seem proud of Horsford’s work on the committee to stand up to Issa. One of his speeches railing against Issa is highlighted on the committee party’s YouTube channel.

And the usually policy-oriented Horsford may take some of what he’s learned in Oversight to the rest of his daily work in Congress. Consider this tweet his team sent out Thursday in response to June’s jobs report.

Expect to see more of Horsford in upcoming Oversight committee hearings on Benghazi and Medicare as he plays the political game in one of the most politicized rooms in Congress.

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