By Stephen Dinan
Republicans circled around Rep. Darrell Issa on Thursday, rejecting a Democratic effort to censure the House’s top investigator after he cut off the microphone of the top Democrat on the oversight committee Wednesday during a heated hearing.
GOP lawmakers defeated a resolution chastising Mr. Issa, and House Speaker John A. Boehner gave Mr. Issa qualified backing, saying the congressman was within his rights to end Wednesday’s hearing after former IRS employee Lois G. Lerner refused to answer questions about the tax agency’s tea party targeting.
The vote was 211-186 to table the resolution, effectively killing it. Ten lawmakers voted “present.”
“From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was within his rights to adjourn the hearing when he did,” Mr. Boehner told reporters Thursday morning.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Boehner was caving to pressure in defending Mr. Issa, and said the move to cut off the microphone was out of bounds.
“It is part of a pattern of abuse of power to shut down other views from being heard,” she said.
In Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Issa had recalled Ms. Lerner to try to make her testify about her role in the IRS’s targeting of tea party groups for special scrutiny.
After Ms. Lerner refused to answer 10 separate questions, citing her right against self-incrimination, Mr. Issa gaveled the hearing closed.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, asked to be recognized and Mr. Issa said he would entertain a question, but when Mr. Cummings began a statement criticizing the IRS investigation, Mr. Issa had the microphones cut and left the room.
Mr. Cummings finished his statement while Ms. Lerner sat at the witness table, but it was done without the benefit of the public address system and without any Republicans remaining to hear him.
Thursday’s resolution condemning Mr. Issa’s behavior was sponsored by Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
She said Mr. Issa violated several rules of the House governing decorum, and broke oversight committee rules by refusing to give other members a chance to question Ms. Lerner. In a letter to Mr. Boehner, she called for Mr. Issa to be ousted as chairman.
Mr. Boehner dismissed that idea.
“Darrell Issa is the chairman. He’s done an effective job as chairman, and I support him,” the GOP’s leader said.
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