Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Issa and Cummings Relationship Frays Over Obamacare Documents (Updated)

Cummings, left, and Issa have sparred over Issa's handling of sensitive documents. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Cummings, left, and Issa have sparred over Issa’s handling of sensitive documents. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Dec. 16, 7:10 p.m. | This December, Darrell Issa and Elijah E. Cummings are sending each other letters, not Christmas cards.

The already acrimonious relationship between Republicans and Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reached a fever pitch Friday after the two sides traded several rounds of warring press releases.

Issa, the California Republican and chairman of the panel, broadcast his concerns over the administration’s attempt to block access to documents, while Cummings, the ranking Democrat from Maryland, blasted Issa for issuing an “unnecessary and confrontational subpoena” while Cummings was away in South Africa at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

First, on Friday, Cummings sent an eight-page letter to Issa asking him to “abandon” his subpoena for security documents from contractor MITRE. Then Issa sent out two press releases — separated by about three hours — dinging the Department of Health and Human Services for requesting that contractors ignore subpoena requests from the committee and praising the decision of the contractors to instead ignore the administration and turn over the documents.

Not that either side got the other’s press releases; in a mark of how well the Republicans and Democrats work together, they don’t include each other on their emailing lists — “if that tells you anything,” as one Democratic committee staffer put it.

The spat was ignited by an HHS missive to Issa noting they did not trust him to not leak sensitive security documents. HHS also said it had directed the security contractors to not comply with Issa’s subpoena.

In his letter, Cummings very publicly wondered why Issa would need his own copies of the documents, given that HHS made the documents available at its headquarters for the panel on Dec. 6. A Democratic committee staffer told CQ Roll Call on Friday that HHS has “not not given access to everything; they just want to make sure that sensitive documents are treated sensitively.”

Cummings also hit Issa for issuing the MITRE subpoena while he was in South Africa, mourning Mandela’s death.

“I was surprised to learn that you had issued a subpoena while I was away demanding that MITRE produce copies of unredacted Security Control Assessments by noon today,” the Marlyand Democrat wrote on Friday.

Cummings seemed to conclude that the only reason Issa would want his own copies of the documents would be to leak them to the public.

“Since you became Chairman of the Committee in 2011, you and your staff have engaged in a reckless pattern of leaking sensitive information and documents to promote political narratives that turn out to be inaccurate after further investigation,” Cummings wrote, referring to incidents when Issa leaked information on the “Fast and Furious” investigation, the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the IRS political targeting scandal.

But a GOP committee aide told CQ Roll Call on Friday that Issa leaks this information “because people like Elijah Cummings are misleading the people about what that information contains.”

Indeed, the aide said the reason Democrats were so mad about Issa leaking information in the past was “somewhere between them saying false things and getting upset when we call them on it.”

Republicans note that both MITRE and another contractor, CCSi, concluded that they had no other choice but to comply with the subpoenas from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, despite an insistence from HHS that the contractors ignore the request. Republicans said the administration was effectively asking contractors to break the law.

“MITRE’s decision is a rejection of efforts by the White House to obstruct oversight,” Issa said in a release Friday afternoon.

“Americans should be disturbed that this Administration is trying to stop government contractors from providing Congress with documents related to the decision to launch while known and serious security vulnerabilities were and still may be present,” Issa also wrote in his release regarding CCSi’s decision to turn over documents.

Democrats say the administration just wanted to review the documents to determine whether they’re sensitive, while Republicans say the administration just wanted to keep the documents out of the public’s eye.

Either way, Republican staffers note that Issa plans to respond to Cummings’ letter, while Democrats note that Republicans have yet to respond to a request for Cummings and Issa to discuss how they’ll treat documents internally in the committee.

Update 7:10 p.m.

The spat between Issa and Cummings continued into Monday, with the top Democrats on seven House committees sending a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging them to hold an immediate classified briefing with top administration cyber officials regarding the risks associated with disclosing documents related to

In the letter — signed by the top Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform, Energy and Commerce, Armed Services, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Education and the Workforce, and Ways and Means committees— the Democrats write that they don’t think the documents should have ever been provided to the Oversight and Government committee “without adequate protocols to safeguard their contents.”

“But now that they have,” the Democrats write, “we have an obligation to understand the harm that would be caused if these documents were disclosed. It is reckless in the extreme for Chairman Issa or any member to possess these documents without a full understanding of the extremely sensitive information they contain and the widespread damage that could be caused if they got into the wrong hands.”

On Friday night, Cummings and other top Democrats on the Oversight panel also sent Issa another letter seeking a special meeting to establish committee procedures for handling the documents.

The letter reminded Issa that, under House rules, he can’t share copies of the subpoenaed documents with anyone outside of members or staff until he holds a special meeting to adopt a protocol to safeguard the documents or otherwise seeks approval of the full panel.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    In this related YouTube video we find an excellent overview of the farce and fraud known as Obamacare:

  • mndasher

    One other number matters in the US House, 290 = the votes needed to override a veto.

  • mikegiles

    So Cummings is indignant that Issa demanded the documents be brought to him, as opposed to going over to HHS, sitting in there office and reading the documents. Jesus! Would someone explain to that ignorant Democratic House “negro”, who is supposed to answer and cater to who. The people of his district deserve much better. On second thought they elected him, so they deserve exactly what they’ve gotten.

  • CiceroTheLatest

    “I was surprised to learn that you had issued a subpoena while I was
    away demanding that MITRE produce copies of unredacted Security Control
    Assessments by noon today, …”

    So Cummings was away demanding that MITRE produce the assessments? Then why did Issa have to issue a subpoena?

    Or maybe the problem is that Cummings and/or his staff are functional illiterates who can’t manage to write a clear sentence: “I was surprised to learn that while I was away you had issued a subpoena demanding that MITRE produce copies of unredacted Security Control Assessments by noon today, …” FIFY, halfwits.

    The country is in the best of hands.

  • David Ferguson

    Issa has nothing to worry about. Cummings doesn’t even know what day of the week it is….

  • Bill Gryan

    It’s the most transparent administration ever, except for the minor point that it directs contractors to break the law to hide information from taxpayers.

  • wtfci

    I cannot recall the Executive branch ever before asking a private organization to ignore a subpoena from Congress. Has this ever occurred in the past? This seems unprecedented, but most of all a horribly reckless act by he Executive branch.

  • georgedixon1

    Cummings is trying to obstruct the investigation, thus, Cummings is trying to obstruct justice.

    Because to a democrat, The Party matters far more than the Nation.

    [BTW: To a democrat, “Caring” is something to vote for rather than actually do.]

  • Greg Quark

    Hey Cummings, you guys stop lying, and the Republicans will stop leaking documents to show up your lies. Deal?

  • Douglas Rottmann

    “We only leak sensitive information because you’re being meanies,” say Republicans. Nice to hear that they’re so responsible.

    • WilliamK

      Sensitive in that it would embarrass Obama and the dems.

  • bittman

    Cummings and the other Dems on the Committee will do anything to protect Obamacare. –after all, the Progressives need Obamacare to gain total control of our government. They ‘ve already proved they lied to the American people to pass it. Their promises that we could keep our healthcare plans, keep our doctors, and our costs would go down were ALL lies.

  • mikeman

    Cummings is a reliable liar and member in good standing of the permanent victim class. I wonder if he still thinks a video caused the Benghazi murders of 4 Americans?

    • Rick Caird

      That is pretty descriptive of Cummings. I would not trust him to watch my lunch let alone the administration. Cummings is preoccupied with race.

  • Nonameworks

    What is it we hear from the nannies all the time? If you don’t have anything to hide, no matter if they are poking into your email, phone calls, library cards, 501(c)3 prayer meetings and the like.
    So what’s with Cummings denying access to records which are OURS?
    Nothing to hide? Then lay it out on the table in the light of day. Something to hide? Then lay it out o the table in the light of day. And take your medicine.

  • Constitution First

    The money line: The reason the Dems have their panties in a twist is ‘somewhere between being lying and being called on it’.

  • timmaguire

    I’d like more details on the “inaccurate” leaks to promote “political narratives” from the Fast and Furious, Banghazi, and IRS scandals.

    As for HHS, issue arrest warrants for interfering with an investigation. Simple as that.

    • Leslie Piper

      Have you not read the Constitution on when congresscreatures are immune to arrest?

      • eztalk

        Read it yourself:

        A Congress member is exempted from arrest while attending a session of the body to which the member belongs, excluding an arrest for treason, breach of the peace, or a felony, .

        The Privilege from Arrest Clause provides a Member of Congress a privilege from civil arrest only, but not from other civil processes.
        Even the privilege from civil arrest would be valid only while Congress is in session.

        Civil arrest is the physical detainment of a person, by lawful authority, to answer a civil demand against him. At the time the Constitution was adopted, civil arrests were common. Long v. Ansell (1934).
        The Framers likely feared this tool could be misused to interfere with the legislative process. Civil arrest is rarely, if ever, practiced, so this clause is virtually obsolete and has little application today…


      • timmaguire

        A little help with the relevance, please. Or do you need help understanding what “HHS” stands for?

        Plus what eztalk said, “congresscreatures” are not above the law.

  • Sammy

    Cummings is Obama’s praetorian guard and is only interested in shielding him rather than working for the general American interest. That has become crystal clear.

  • dima1

    What kind of sensitive security information would be in those HHS documents? I call BS.

  • James Hall

    Issa is a lying dishonest criminal sociopath AND a snake.

  • Leslie Piper

    Criminal subversive righties continually attack the government as their duty to their sponsor, Koch industries, in THEIR grandiose plan their family has worked on for 80 years to subversively weaken and bring down the American democracy.
    Aren’t you glad that the founder of all the attacking and weakening apparatus, Fred Koch, learned HIS political chops directly from JOSEPH STALIN?

    • eztalk


      • Leslie Piper

        EZ. t’s called GOOGLE. Just google koch…read the bio data on daddy. He worked for Stalin in the 30’s putting in oil refineries…
        It isn’t hidden info. There are none so blind as those who will not see…go on, it’s ALL available and damned easy to find.
        By the way, daddy K was a GREAT engineer. Stalin really could pick them.

  • Defend Liberty

    Always keep in mind, folks – Hussein Obama’s primary war is against the Constitution of these united states.

  • Duude

    Cummings is a corrupt pos of a congressman. He we was the next most senior on this committee before friends of Angelo’s, Edolphus Towns used his position on the oversight committee to steal, and cheat his way to retirement in 2012. The oversight committee has done for democrats what Cuba’s seat on the UN human rights committee did for them.

  • George Allegro

    Obama is a crazed lunatic.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...