House Committee hearings are rarely must-see television, but a heated exchange between Oversight chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the ranking Democratic member Rep. Elijah Cummings yesterday was unprecedented.
Issa was holding hearings to investigate alleged political bias within the IRS. When he deemed witness Lois Lerner uncooperative and tried to prematurely end the proceedings, Cummings fought back.
“Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this. We’re better than that as a country, we’re better than that as a committee,” he said.
Cummings later called out the entire investigation for not being bipartisan, while Issa tried to cut his microphone. The incident got national coverage and has provoked Rep. Marcia Fudge, the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to call for Issa’s removal from the Oversight Committee.
In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, Rep. Fudge wrote, “Under the applicable Rules of the House, we strongly encourage you to take disciplinary action against Mr. Issa and force him to present himself before the American people on the House floor with an apology.”
It’s unlikely that Boehner will move to reprimand Issa, who he has given relatively free reign during his tenure.
Still, according to Fudge: “Mr. Issa not only violated House Rules 9 and 23, he also violated the rules of the committee he chairs. According to Oversight & Government Reform Committee Rule 9 and House Rule 11, each member is allowed five minutes to question a witness during a Congressional hearing. Mr. Issa blatantly disregarded this rule when he adjourned the hearing and denied committee members the opportunity to speak in the middle of the customary five minutes afforded to Ranking Member Cummings. Mr. Issa is a disgrace and should not be allowed to continue in a leadership role.”
Fudge read her entire letter to Boehner on the House floor this afternoon.