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Washington • Republicans on Tuesday selected Rep. Jason Chaffetz to head the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a powerful position that will allow the Utah Republican to probe and poke the Obama administration for the coming two years.
Rep. Rob Bishop, as expected, landed the chairmanship of the House Natural Resources Committee in an unopposed election, allowing the Utah congressman to set the agenda for public-lands management and supervision of the Interior Department.
Chaffetz said it was humbling to have his colleagues put their faith in him, and he looks forward to the challenge of leading a high-profile committee.
"I just want to do the right thing," Chaffetz said in a phone interview. "I just want truth and justice to prevail no matter where it takes us. I just want there to be transparency in our government."
Chaffetz notes that while he's in a "target-rich environment" with President Barack Obama in the White House, he would take the same zeal to the job no matter who is president.
"It's nothing personal," Chaffetz said. "The sign of a good chairman is to be equally tough no matter who is in the White House."
Chaffetz faced stiff competition for his post, beating out more senior Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Turner, both of Ohio, to take over the House's main watchdog committee known for taking on controversial topics and grilling witnesses.
The Utah Republican, who will start his fourth term in January, had campaigned openly for the spot being vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who was term-limited.
When he takes over the gavel in January, Chaffetz will have the authority to issue subpoenas on his own and call hearings on government actions, or inactions, as well as haul administration officials before the committee. Issa had led the committee with a firebrand approach in recent years, even going so far as to cut off the microphone of the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, when he didn't want him to speak.
Cummings and Chaffetz have developed a professional working relationship in the past year, with both touring the other's respective district to learn about their unique issues. Cummings didn't do such tours with Jordan or Turner, and the Democrat says he would be able to work well with Chaffetz.
"Chaffetz is not Issa," Cummings said earlier this year. "You know, he's not."
The Oversight Committee is known for its headline-grabbing hearings on everything from the terrorist attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi to the Affordable Care Act rollout to the recent Secret Service scandals. Chaffetz has been a point person on several of those issues, appearing on national broadcasts to castigate the Obama administration.
The Republican Steering Committee, made up of House leaders, chose Chaffetz during a closed-door meeting Monday.
Bishop's elevation to the chairmanship puts a Utahn in charge of the public-lands-centric Natural Resources Committee for the first time since then-Rep. Jim Hansen, who retired in 2003. Bishop recently won re-election to a seventh term.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered congratulations to those appointed to head the committees, noting they have his utmost trust and confidence.
"These lawmakers understand that we have big challenges ahead, and the opportunity to do some great things in the new American Congress," Boehner said. "I know they will set high standards of oversight, foster input and contributions from both the majority and the minority, and produce solutions worthy of the people we serve."
On the other side of the Hill, seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is expected to take over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which deals with a variety of issues from entitlements to the tax code to financial regulations.