When Republicans lash
out at Democrats, or vice versa, folks around here barely
notice. In this town, it's only news if everyone gets
along for a full 15 minutes.
But when the crossing
of swords involves two hometown members of Congress – who
presumably need to make nice for the good of their common
region – that's a little more interesting.
And so that brings us to Darrell Issa, the Vista
Republican known, shall we say, for periodically blowing
his cool. And to Susan Davis, the San Diego Democrat who
recently provoked this unfortunate tendency in Issa.
It all started with a toll road that some want to build
between southern Orange County and northern San Diego
County. The proposed Foothill South freeway would be 17
miles long. It would have four lanes. It would connect
state Route 241 with Interstate 5.
And it would cross a nature preserve.
Oops. State law forbids a freeway from crossing into a
state park, while federal law requires highway builders to
exhaust “all feasible and prudent” alternatives before
paving over parkland.
But the Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies,
which wants to finish this road to ease traffic in
southern Orange County cities, in recent years persuaded
some in Congress – including Issa – to grant exemptions
from those requirements.
Davis – no doubt carrying water for the
conservationists, surfers and state-park advocates –
recently wrote an amendment to the National Defense
Authorization Act repealing those exemptions. The
amendment went into the act earlier this month, the House
Armed Services Committee passed it, and the full House
approved it last week. Next stop is the Senate.
Upon learning of what he called the “midnight passage”
of Davis' measure, Issa faulted the former school board
member for all sorts of vices – secrecy, catering to
special interests, ignoring her region's welfare, even
threatening national security.
Issa claims that while Davis and other lawmakers were
negotiating about the toll road, she never showed him the
language of her amendment.
“Her plan threatens to deny the residents of Southern
California the benefits of an important regional
transportation asset,” Issa wrote in a release. Her
intervention, he said, was “unusual, unwelcome and
ill-informed,” designed to advance “the agenda of outside
special interests” and now threatens “further encroachment
on Camp Pendleton and its critical military mission.”
Davis isn't backing down.
“This particular toll-road project received a number of
unprecedented legal exemptions,” Davis spokesman Aaron
Hunter said. “Susan feels that this project should have to
follow the same laws other transportation projects in the
state must follow.”
Hunter also pointed out that the California Legislature
should have a chance to weigh in on a state route that
might barrel through a state park.
As for the “midnight passage” of the amendment, Hunter
said Davis negotiated for a full day and into the night
with Issa and others, apparently with little success. She
finally put the amendment into the authorization act, and
the Armed Services Committee – of which she is a member –
“Considering that supporters of the toll road are
claiming that Susan's amendment will 'kill' the project, I
would speculate that the toll road will not come to
fruition without the exemptions,” Hunter said.
During a silent auction at a recent benefit for the
Armed Forces Foundation, Issa bid $330 for a “Zero
Tolerance” kitchen knife, which he won.
He isn't likely to keep it for long.
Issa donated an item to the auction as well – a 1926
Ford Model T woodie that he bought at the same gala last
year for $35,000.
Is the congressman adding to a knife collection?
“He does not have a collection,” Issa spokesman
Frederick Hill said. “Last year, he purchased (the) Model
T, and it was donated and re-auctioned at this year's
event. This year's items will probably have a similar
Issa did bid $1,200 on a Colt Single Action Army
revolver, also known as a “Colt .45,” but didn't win it
(contrary to a report in a Capitol Hill publication).
Dana Wilkie is a
Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service and
a longtime observer of California politics and social