The Congressional Black Caucus joined the ongoing feud between House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Democratic Ranking Member Elijah Cummings Thursday, calling for the ouster of Issa as head of the House’s watchdog committee.
Cummings, D-Md., and Issa, R-Calif., clashed at a hearing Wednesday morning shortly after former IRS official Lois Lerner repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Cummings bristled when Issa adjourned the hearing and cut Cummings’s mic as he tried to speak.
The CBC has called on Republican leadership to remove Issa from his position on the Oversight Committee, accusing him of abusing his authority and demanding he “be reprimanded to ensure the dignity of the House of Representatives.”
“The American people have the right to expect that their elected leaders be held to the highest possible standards of conduct,” wrote CBC Chair Marcia Fudge, Democrat of Ohio, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. She argued that Issa violated House rules and took “unequivocally unacceptable” action when he refused to allow Cummings and others to speak.
“We urge you to take prompt action to maintain the integrity of this body and remove Mr. Issa as chair of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee immediately,” she concluded in her letter.
When asked for comment, Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said they deferred to Boehner, who defended Issa’s actions at his weekly press conference Thursday, saying he was “within his rights” during the hearing.
Fudge and other Democrats brought a resolution condemning Issa’s actions to the House floor, in which they argued that the behavior Issa exhibited during Wednesday’s hearing “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 House voted along party lines to table the motion condemning Issa a few hours later.
Cummings reiterated his criticism of Issa during a press conference Thursday alongside fellow Democrats who complained that Issa’s “partisan” investigation into the IRS’s possible political targeting has cost $14 million – with little to show for it.
Cummings defended his actions during an appearance on Morning Joe earlier Thursday, saying he was trying to help Issa get the information he wanted from Lerner’s lawyer.
“What I was trying to do was to get to allow the attorney to at least provide us with a proffer, that is, to tell us what his clients would have said if she were to testify,” he said.
Despite the fireworks, Cummings added during the TV appearance that he and Issa have maintained “a pretty good relationship” as counterparts on the committee.