Tensions between Reps. Elijah Cummings and Darrell Issa are flaring once again over the GOP’s insistence on investigating discredited scandals.
Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, berated his Republican adversary during a press conference Wednesday for “relentlessly pursuing non-existent scandals for political purposes.”
Citing a laundry list of press reports calling out Issa for stretching the truth in casting the fallout of the terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, as a supposed conspiracy, Cummings said Issa’s “reckless claims” were an embarrassment to Congress.
Cummings accused Issa slinging of “McCarthyism” by dragging out months-long investigations not only into Benghazi, but also the IRS’ alleged plot targeting political groups.
In a report to committee Democrats, obtained by Politico, Cummings likened the committee chair to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, who was notorious in his aggressive witch hunt targeting alleged communists during the Cold War.
“We oppose Chairman Issa’s efforts to recreate the Oversight Committee in Joe McCarthy’s image, and we reject his attempts to drag us back to that shameful era in which Congress tried to strip away the constitutional rights of American citizens under the bright lights of hearings that had nothing to do with responsible oversight and everything to do with the most dishonorable kind of partisan politics,” the report said, according to Politico.
The dust-up between the congressmen came to a head last month during a hearing delving into the alleged IRS scandal. Issa refused to allow Democrats to speak at the hearing, but when Cummings pressed forward to address the panel, Issa cut his mic mid-sentence. The flare-up emboldened Democrats to come out against Issa, who later apologized for his actions.
House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee opposed a closed-door meeting Wednesday meant to lay the groundwork in formally asking the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the firestorm.
Rep. Sandy Levin, ranking Democrat on the committee, asked to make the session open to the public, NBC News reports. His efforts were rejected after Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, called for a vote to close the meeting to press. The vote passed along party lines, NBC reports, in the Republican-led committee.