Issa apologizes to Cummings for hearing clash

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) (C) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) (C) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2014 in Washington, DC.

House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa says he apologized to Rep. Elijah Cummings for cutting off the ranking congressman's microphone during a hearing Wednesday.

"Mr. Cummings is a member of Congress who works very hard for his constituents," the California Republican told his home district newspaper, U-T San Diego.

Cummings confirmed in a statement that he spoke over the phone with Issa and accepted his apology. "My sincere hope is that as we move forward, we will respect the opinions of all members of the committee, we will proceed in a deliberate and considered manner to obtain the facts, we will refrain from making accusations that have no basis in fact, and we will seek resolution rather than unnecessary conflict," Cummings said in the statement.

Issa's apology comes after a condemnation resolution against his "offensive actions" failed to pass in the House. The Congressional Black Caucus had written a letter to House speaker John Boehner earlier Thursday, demanding that Issa be reprimanded for the incident.

"Congressman Darrell Issa of California abused his authority and therefore must be reprimanded to ensure the dignity of the House of Representatives is preserved," Ohio Democratic Rep. and Congressional Black Caucus chair Marcia Fudge wrote. "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."

Issa and Cummings have been at odds for months over the committee's investigation into improper IRS targeting of conservative groups for review of their tax-exempt status. Groups with other political affiliations were scrutinized as well however, and Issa and other Republicans have for months sought -- and failed -- to prove that the administration itself directed the IRS scrutiny. The tension between Issa and Cummings boiled over Wednesday, during a hearing in which IRS official Lois Lerner repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to questions. 

Frustrated, Issa sought to adjourn the meeting, but Cummings began to speak. Issa cut Cummings's microphone off, then briefly turned it back on, then cut it off again while Cummings was still talking. Issa later told reporters that Cummings "was actually slandering me at the moment that the mics did go off by claiming that this had not been a real investigation.” Fudge alleges that Issa violated House rules when he cut off Cummings's mic. 

Boehner sided with Issa when asked to weigh in by reporters Thursday. 

"From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was within his rights to adjourn the meeting when he did," Boehner said. "Darrell Issa is the chairman, he's done an effective job as chairman, and I support him.