Democrats Demand Boehner Strip Issa of Oversight Chairmanship

by Eliana Johnson

The confrontation on Wednesday between Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and the committee’s ranking member, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, led to calls from Democrats for House speaker John Boehner to strip Issa of his chairmanship. 

They are angry that Issa abruptly adjourned a committee hearing and denied Cummings’s request to speak, instead instructing committee staff to turn off his microphone. 

In a letter to Boehner on Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus asked Boehner to remove Issa from his position, arguing that the California Republican’s “deplorable” conduct constituted an abuse of his authority. Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, offered a resolution on the House floor condemning Issa for his “offensive and disrespectful manner,” but House blocked it by a 211–186 margin.

Team Issa pushed back, calling the uproar the result of “fake outrage” among the Oversight Committee’s Democratic members.

“This is just their political playbook when they don’t like the facts,” Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill told National Review Online. “Their past two chairmen — [California congressman Henry] Waxman and [former New York congressman Edolphus] Towns — threatened to have a member physically removed from the hearing room and changed the locks on doors to keep Republican members out. Cummings and crew didn’t seem to have a problem with those things. Hard to take their complaints now seriously. Chairman Issa has been extremely patient in the face of an organized and determined effort to obstruct oversight of the federal government.”​

Towns changed the locks on the doors of the committee room in 2009 after Republican committee members posted a video online showing Democrats slipping out the side door of the hearing room in an attempt to avoid a vote on the Countrywide Financial investigation. Waxman in 2008 threatened to have Issa physically removed from a committee hearing after Issa interrupted him while he was questioning a witness. 

In Wednesday’s hearing, Cummings made his voice heard even though his microphone had been cut. “I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America, and I am tired of this,” he shouted as members began shuffling out of the hearing room. “You cannot just have a one-sided investigation,” he told Issa of the committee’s probe into the IRS scandal. “There is absolutely something wrong with that and it is absolutely un-American.”