March 06, 2014, 11:26 am
CBC asks that Issa be stripped of gavel
By Bernie Becker
The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus is calling House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to be stripped of his gavel for his behavior at a contentious IRS hearing on Wednesday.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) told Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday that Issa’s conduct in the hearing — which included cutting off the microphone of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat — amounted to “an affront to the expectations of the American people.” Fudge also said Issa should apologize on the House floor.
“The American people have the right to expect that their elected leaders be held to the highest possible standards of conduct. Congressional committee leaders are held to an even higher standard due to their unique positions,” Fudge wrote in a letter to Boehner.
“Congressman Darrell Issa of California abused his authority and therefore must be reprimanded to ensure the dignity of the House of Representatives is preserved.”
Fudge’s letter comes in the wake of a memorable House Oversight hearing with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the agency’s targeting controversy. While the Oversight Committee is no stranger to conflict, the hearing turned rowdy even by the committee’s usual standards.
Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights before the panel, as she had at a May 2013 hearing.
After Issa had adjourned the hearing, Cummings tried to make a statement, at which point Issa cut off his microphone. Democrats yelled “Shame!”
Cummings loudly criticized Issa’s handling of the IRS investigation without the microphone, calling it one-sided and “un-American.”
“I am a member of the United States Congress of America! I am tired of this!” he yelled.
Boehner stood by Issa on Thursday, saying he was “within his rights to adjourn the hearing.”
The Speaker faced repeated questions from reporters about Issa’s behavior at his weekly Capitol press conference, and offered the oversight chairman a clear if unenthusiastic endorsement when asked if he would bow to Democratic demands to replace him.
“Darrell Issa is the chairman. He’s done an effective job as chairman. I support him,” Boehner said.
Democrats are using the hearing to push the message that Republicans are running the House in a heavy-handed manner.
Dozens of Democrats appeared on the House floor Thursday to demand that the House condemn Issa, a call that Fudge put forward separately in a privileged resolution.
"Chairman Issa's abusive behavior on March 5 is part of a continuing pattern in which he has routinely excluded members of the Committee from investigative meetings, and has routinely provided information to the press before sharing it with Committee members," the resolution reads.
The resolution charges that Issa violated House rules, which say members must "behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House."
Issa has suggested that Cummings, the Oversight panel’s top Democrat and a CBC member, is the one who should be apologizing.
The Oversight chairman told reporters that he had already told Cummings that there wouldn’t be opening statements, because Wednesday’s hearing was technically a continuation of Lerner’s earlier appearance.
Issa also said that Cummings has gone to great lengths to impede the committee’s oversight efforts.