The IRS scandal: Cummings and Issa spar

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., right, sitting next to  Rep. Elijah Cummings D-Md., Wednesday,...
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., right, sitting next to Rep. Elijah Cummings D-Md., Wednesday,...
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There’s no love lost between Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.

The two lawmakers, who sit on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, are sparring this week over the Internal Revenue Service scandal, with each accusing the other of being “reckless.”

It started last week when Issa asserted the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups began in Washington.

The California congressman, who chairs the committee, released partial transcripts of IRS officials in Cincinnati, including one unnamed employee saying they took “all my direction from Washington.”

Cummings–the top-ranking Democrat on the committee–immediately ripped Issa’s claims, calling them “reckless” and “inconsistent with the findings of the Inspector General, who spent more than a year conducting the investigation.” (President Obama has said he was unaware of the IRS’s practice and has promised to hold other officials in the tax collection agency accountable. The disclosure has led to the resignation of two top IRS officials).

So why not release the entire transcript? Other IRS employees in the same division, including a manger of the group and the person responsible for the extra targeting, contradict the cherry-picked statements Issa released. Cummings made public more of the transcripts over the weekend.

In one, an IRS manager–a Republican–is asked if the decision to screen Tea Party groups was made with the goal of “targeting of the president’s political enemies.” The employee responded, “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development.”

The employee was also asked if he believed that anyone in the White House was involved, to which he said, “I have no reason to believe that.”

Cummings told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Monday that if Issa doesn’t release the transcripts in their entirety, he will. He also says the new transcripts show the White House was not involved and the case should be put to rest.

“I try to give deference to the chairman,” said Cummings. He added, however,  ”I am anxious to have every syllable of the transcripts submitted and to the public…I think we should have the total picture.”

Issa, meanwhile, released a statement saying the IRS manager’s interview didn’t take away from other interviews, in which employees said Washington was involved. He also accused Cummings of trying to brush the scandal under the rug.

Cummings’ “extreme and reckless assertions are a signal that his true motivation is stopping needed congressional oversight and he has no genuine interest in working, on a bipartisan basis, to expose the full truth,” said Issa, who has not said if he’ll release the full transcript.

Either way, the IRS drama doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Three congressional committees are already investigating, and more IRS hearings could be on the table. Republicans are still deciding if they will try to bring in Lois Lerner, head of the IRS’ tax exempt division, back to testify—despite her pleading the Fifth Amendment last month. Other lawmakers, including Sen. Bob Portman, want to bring in a special prosecutor to investigate.


The IRS scandal: Cummings and Issa spar