Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Issa, Cummings Feud Boils Over

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The committee dustup between Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings has Democrats and Republicans at each other’s throats and demanding apologies.

On Wednesday, Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone after abruptly adjourning a hearing with IRS official Lois Lerner. Issa spent about 15 minutes asking Lerner questions, even though she made it clear she would be invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But before Cummings could speak, Issa adjourned the committee.

When Cummings protested and asked for the chance to ask a procedural question, Issa gave him a moment to do so. But when the Maryland Democrat launched into statement attacking Republicans, Issa cut him off.

“We’re adjourned. Close it down,” Issa told committee staff.

Later Wednesday, Democrats on the committee sent Issa a letter demanding an apology.

“We believe your actions today were disrespectful and abusive, and they impugn the integrity of this Committee and undermine the credibility of its work,” the letter, which was signed by every Oversight and Government Reform Democrat with the exclusion of Cummings, said. “They also make it appear that the Committee is more concerned with political spectacle than gathering facts in a balanced and impartial manner.”

Cummings is scheduled Thursday morning to stand beside four other ranking members to discuss a pattern of Republican chairmen shutting out Democrats.

On Wednesday, Cummings told CQ Roll Call that he was “just trying to help” Issa get answers from Lerner, saying there may have been an opportunity for her lawyer to provide answers.

“So rather than come out here with nothing,” Cummings said, “all I was trying to do was try to get to the point of, if you want to know at least what she was saying, let all of the Democrats and Republicans gather together, talk to a lawyer, and then he can tell us what she would answer to those questions.”

Issa countered that Cummings was trying to deliver a political statement, and that the hearing was, in effect, a resumption of a hearing that began last year, when Lerner first appeared before the panel and pleaded the Fifth.

“We talked about it before the hearing,” the California Republican told reporters on Wednesday. “[Cummings] asked, ‘Would there be opening statements?’ I said, ‘No, there wouldn’t be, we already opened in May.’ And then [at the hearing] he asked if he could ask a question after adjournment, I said, ‘What is your question?’ and he went into effectively an opening statement accusing me of having all the hearings based on a false premise so then we had already adjourned, I simply walked away. … He went into a diatribe.”

On Wednesday afternoon, after the incident, Cummings was choosing his words carefully — and he refused to say whether he felt disrespected.

“I don’t get caught up in whether there’s a disrespect situation or whatever,” Cummings told CQ Roll Call. “I just want to stay focused and try to solve the problems. I don’t worry so much about who I’m fighting against, I’m more concerned about what I’m fighting for.”

But if Cummings wasn’t immediately seizing the opportunity, other House Democrats were.

“Republican democracy in action,” bemoaned House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York at a Democratic leadership press conference on Wednesday morning, sarcastically calling Issa the “investigative king of America.”

“No Chairman should ever silence an opposing view in his [committee],” House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., tweeted. “We can’t allow democracy to be suspended.” He affixed the tweet with #IssaCircus.

Gerald E. Connolly, a Democratic member of the committee from Virginia, called the incident “profoundly disrespectful.”

“This is about the trampling of constitutional rights, and about minority rights here in the Congress,” he said.

Connolly said Issa had to do “a lot more than apologize, I think he has to actually mend his ways — and pretty quickly.”

He said there were two models for the Oversight Committee — and Issa had chosen the “Dan Burton model, which is to use it as a partisan cudgel and sort of play fast and loose with facts and analysis, and, for that matter, oversight.”

“And that’s too bad,” Connolly said, “because I actually believe Darrell is a talented person who either chose this role or was selected for this role. But in the process, his hubris and lack of regard for civility and minority rights have completely tainted whatever product he has attempted to produce. It’s all tainted.”

Connolly also said there was a “disturbing trend with Darrell in the way that he treats the ranking member. It borders on the contentious. It is most unbecoming, and it shows a profound lack of respect for Elijah Cummings and who he is and where he came from.”

“It’s a very mean-spirited, cynical but calculated methodology to demean your ranking member, to dismiss him,” Connolly added.

As for what Democrats would do, Connolly said Democrats were going to “assess their options.”

Connolly recalled former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas coming to the House floor to apologize after he summoned the Capitol Police to a pension bill markup in 2003.

“I don’t have any illusions about Darrell Issa shedding a tear, but, if he asked my advice, I would caution him greatly to mend his ways or he will find himself called before the full House to account for his behavior.”

He added that censure was “absolutely” under consideration.

Another Democratic member of the committee, Jackie Speier of California, said the committee needed to have a meeting with Speaker John A. Boehner “to bring some decorum back to our deliberations.”

Speier said the problems between Issa and Cummings had less to do with their relationship.

“Because I don’t believe the chairman has any interest in creating a relationship with the ranking member,” she said.

“It’s a sparring competition,” Speier said, adding that oversight had been “hijacked by this committee to be a political campaign event each and every hearing.”

Speier said it was “shameful” what had happened in the committee, and she said that Issa’s hoarding of documents was a “flagrant abuse of power.”

Democratic leadership is taking note.

During the first vote series on Wednesday afternoon, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., was seen chatting privately with Cummings in the Speakers’ Lobby off the chamber floor. And later, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, told CQ Roll Call that the CBC was “exploring its options” to hold Issa accountable for his behavior.

Still, Issa denies he did anything wrong. In fact, he said Democrats were the ones who needed to mete out punishment.

“I think he should be dealt with by his leadership,” Issa said of Cummings. “You know the decorum of the House, the adjournment was appropriate, we had dismissed the only witness and his conduct was inappropriate and rather shocking.

“He owes me an apology,” Issa said.

A spokesman for Issa, Frederick Hill, had even stronger words.

“Democrats on our Committee need to drop the fake outrage and acknowledge this is just their political playbook when they don’t like the facts,” Hill said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.

The spokesman brought up the two most recent Democratic chairmen — Edolphus Towns and Henry A. Waxman — who had their own issues with Republicans.

“Cummings and crew didn’t seem to have a problem with those things — hard to take their complaints now seriously,” Hill said. “Chairman Issa has been extremely patient in the face of an organized and determined effort to obstruct oversight of the Federal government.”

Hill has been a frequent Issa mouthpiece, issuing stern words for Democrats regarding their own transgressions.

To wit, Connolly said, as a staffer for 10 years in the Senate and as a House member for five years, he’d never seen a staffer so openly attack members as Issa’s spokesman. And if a staffer did, “they would have been dismissed on the spot on that very day.

“And, sadly, Mr. Issa uses him as a tool to disparage, to demean, and it’s created a terrible, terrible legacy, and built up so much ill-will that it will affect him and his effectiveness in Congress for years to come,” Connolly said.

Still, Cummings wasn’t ruling out redemption with Issa.

“Nothing is ever frayed,” Cummings said. “Nothing is frayed until I die.”

  • ShadrachSmith

    Cummings is an embarrassment. Nobody needs to listen to long passive-agressive rants about how Lois Learner is the aggrieved victim. Cummings says inexcusably rude things to and about all Republicans.

    Neither Democrats nor journolister are in a position to preach about either morality or manners. And Matt and Emma forgot to call Hill a racist? Don’t you know your jobs?

    • johnblack45john

      What version of the hearing did you watch the fox News version? You baggers are something to behold. This President is NOT stonewalling a damn thing. He has no control over Issa farce of a hearing. Turn off Fox News and read a book

      • ShadrachSmith

        There was not a whiff of corruption in the IRS targeting Republicans. I know you believe that. Why?

        • johnblack45john

          lol. Why is it that clueless baggers like you think the only people targeted by the IRS were republicans? You baggers are totally stupid.

        • Lou

          Don’t feed the troll I responded to the idiot above but now see he is just a troll a dumb dummycrat TROLL

          • johnblack45john

            It never cease to amaze me how people like you can call anybody a troll. Project much? And you are a baggertroll at that.

          • Lou

            You just repeat and repeat can you get a new script? Are the democrats to ignorant to write another one?

          • johnblack45john

            And every time I do it’s still the truth. I can’t help if you don’t like hearing it. And the only ignorant people are tea baggers like you who love voting against your own best interest by voting republican

        • Charli03

          Because it’s true, and it’s been proven to be true over and over, but the republicans are looking for campaign slogans and it doesn’t matter if they are true, they sell on Fox and to people who live in sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity, so aptly put by MLK. He was black too and got the same disrespect shown this president.

          • Lou


      • guyinadiner

        If that nice lady did anything wrong while in the employ of the taxpayers I’m certain that she would help the congressmen and women who are investigating. Best we just move along.

        • johnblack45john

          She did nothing wrong.

    • Charli03

      I think when it has been proved that only progressive organizations were denied charity status and the head of the IRS is a Bush republican who met secretly with Issa before Issa decided it was going to be a scandal with a million hearings even after they learned there was nothing there, perhaps you don’t know how to read.

  • Tom

    He didn’t abruptly cut off Cummings microphone. He ended the hearing — for good reason — and after Cummings to advantage of a opportunity he was given Issa cut off his microphone. This is a partisan article.

    • johnblack45john

      Uh Hello. Issa was the only person allowed to speak at the entire hearing? You actually think this is the way congressional hearings are held? He adjourned the meeting without letting anybody even his fellow republican congress people speak.

      • Lou

        No John of course not. Cummings decided to make a fool of himself AFTER the meeting was OVER. How long do you stay at work when your time is DONE? Or do you work?

        • johnblack45john

          The only one who made a fool out of himself was Issa. There has NEVER been any congressional investigation in US history that was handled like this. He was the ONLY congressperson to speak period. Even his fellow republican congresspeople didn’t get to speak. How do you hold a hearing and don’t allow anybody to speak? And do you work anywhere besides trolling here for 5 cents a post?

          • Lou

            You really need to take a break from the internet you are mentally ill. Please get help. I say this not in a derogatory way but with compassion. Your sick John I hope you seek help.

          • johnblack45john

            Pot meet kettle.

          • Lou

            Listen you really need help that is more than apparent. That being said I can’t force you but I won’t argue or disagree with someone in your condition.

          • johnblack45john

            Who are you to tell me I need help when you are the one in need of it? And you are right about one thing. You can’t force me to do a damn thing. Now you go somewhere and get the help you need. Oh and by the way psychiatric help that you need for your condition is covered by Obamacare,

      • Tom

        This wasn’t a traditional hearing; it was a continuation of the hearing that was began last year. That is why there was only one witness and also why nobody else was going to speak if the witness refused to answer questions again. If you don’t understand what is going on then don’t make comments such as “you think this is the way congressional hearings are held?” While I’m still a student my major is political science and I know a thing or two about how Congress works.

        • johnblack45john

          You are the one ho don’t understand. There has NEVER been any hearing in US history where nobody but the chairman was allowed to speak. And he knew that this woman was going to plead the fifth and admitted as much but went on with this witch hunt and waste of tax payer money investigation anyway. He has wasted $14 million in tax payer money on this. one witch hunt alone. Then look at all of the other ones where he has also found nothing. . If you don’t understand this then you are the clueless one here not me.

          • Tom

            Like I said, it was not a typical hearing but you’re going to continue to be one sided for the rest of your life so your opinion on these matters will always amount to that of a child’s.

          • Dan

            It is a typical hearing most go beyond just one hearing

          • johnblack45john

            Like I said. You are clueless as well as stupid. And the only one sided issues people I know are low information Fox News viewers like you who eats up everything they feed you. And you post like a two year old and have the IQ of one.

          • Tom

            Sorry John I don’t have cable or listen to Fox, MSNBC, CNN, or any other crap news; just NPR, BBC, and good ol fashioned research. But since you have nothing intelligent to say and are resorting to name calling I’ll assume you subscribe to those left and right wing style news sources. Have fun trying to make something of yourself.

          • johnblack45john

            What have you got? NOTHING!If you really did watch all those news organizations and did real research you would know that this farce of a hearing is nothing but a waste of tax payer time and money. Issa’s the one who has nothing. He even admitted before this hearing that this lady was going to do this and yet he went on with it anyway. And you need to try making something of yourself and quit being a fool and listening to a bunch of right wing nonsense

        • Charli03

          If you don’t know what really happened, do your research. No one ends a hearing without a motion approved.

        • Dan

          If you are a student of Political Science you would know both sides get to ask questions even if its a continuation, But beyond that why hold the hearing at all when they all knew she would take the fifth again

          • Tom

            Yes both sides normally do but in this case the witness pleaded the fifth (again) and for that reason there was no use opening the floor up for questions that wouldn’t be answered.

            The reason they held the meeting (if you care to do some research into the issue you’ll see that I’m correct) was because in the first hearing she gave an opening statement and then pleaded the fifth; having done that it was determined that she waived her fifth amendment right when she gave an opening statement. So, the reason they continued the hearing was to give her an opportunity to answer questions or to hold her in contempt if she chose to exercise the right that she waived by giving the opening statement. But you are right, if she had answered questions each side would have been given time to ask questions.

    • Charli03

      Cummings was allowed five minutes; he didn’t get it. This is a disgusting act of impropriety and against house rules. The new rude disrespect so loved by the republican base towards this president and his secretaries and other aides is ugly and sad. If Cummings had been given his five minutes, he was prepared to speak with the attorney who would have given Issa some of the information he was really NOT seeking. Only progressives were denied charity status when we all know dozens of these political SUPERPACS were just that, including Karl Rove.

      • Tom

        Cummings was given time to ask a question; he decided to use that time to make a political statement and so he was cut off. If he had used the time to have the lawyer answer questions for her like he said then he wouldn’t have been cut off because he would have been contributing something meaningful.

        • Dan

          Sorry Tom is you go back you see Issa making a statement with his questions

  • Andre Leonard

    “But when the Maryland Democrat launched into statement attacking Republicans, Issa cut him off”.

    Partisan wrangling is seen everywhere and in everything. It’s why our government in the current two party monopoly system fails miserably.

    We see the same party ideology bashing right here in our comments everyday.

    • johnblack45john

      When did telling the truth become attacking republicans?

      • Andre Leonard

        A better question would be, which came first, the donkey or the elephant.

        We have a country spiraling in a race to the bottom and all our leaders can do is engage in partisan bickering.

        We have a $17 trillion debt, 11 million illegal aliens to prove it.

        • Charli03

          Yes and we finally saw and heard people come forward on TV tonight and tell us where $3 trillion of that, unfunded, went — to try and grab Iraq’s oil fields. Add another trillion unfunded on tax cuts for the rich, amount unknown for unfunded drug benefits, complete with government subsidies to HMOs, money to the auto makers as they were sinking that was not even a loan and not paid back like the loan from the current administration, cost us $10 billion and growing for dropping from AAA to an AA rating at S&P over the debt fight with the crazies, and then blame this president who added these costs to the debt where they belong, and also halved his predecessor’s deficit while funding health insurance for those who would never have it without his courage.

          • Andre Leonard

            It’s very obvious you have been paying attention Charli.

            Wish more could/would.

  • Alfred Neuman

    And now the winner for best performance in a congressional hearing is: ………..Elijah Cummings.

  • Dennis Speek

    Issa is a piece of s…. He spends millions of taxpayer dollars on partisan witch hunts on subjects that have been debunked. He cherry picks information and leaks it to outside sources and fails to include information that he doesn’t like… Typical of the TeaParty and the GOP.

  • johnblack45john

    Pot meet kettle. Get a life you stupid illiterate bagger as well as a clue.

    • Lou

      You lose John go suck it

      • johnblack45john

        The only loser here is you illiterate bagger. And I haven’t took up an of your bad habits so you go suck something.

  • Lou

    Cummings get over it. The meeting was OVER and just because you opened your big fat mouth didn’t mean it held any power. This is flippen stupid. Instead of congress focusing on the IRS scandal this is what they do……Ridiculous.

    • johnblack45john

      This whle farce of a hearing should never took place in the first place since this issue was settled months ago.

      • Lou

        The short bus will pick you up soon…..

        • johnblack45john

          Right after it picks you up

  • Jose Rodriguez

    For many reasons, countries considered free are susceptible to the creeping tyranny of bureaucratic socialism that destroys liberty by confining our abilities and choices under the leaden threads of administrative restrictions.

  • cliftonbritt

    johnblack42, or whatever, is you a Black John or is it the color of your john. Try real hard to let this soak in, you are not Einstein! You just like to hear your head rattle as all that muddy water sloshes around.

  • 0(o_o)0(-_-)(o…o)

    “May I state my question, just kidding, it’s actually a STATEMENT about how this oversight thing is just a partisan witch hunt!”

    I feel sorry for Maryland — Cummings is a trojan horse.

  • compguy83

    “You’re just playing politics and being partisan!”

    “No, YOU’RE just playing politics and being partisan!”

    This is our “democracy”.

  • Jo Stone

    I have intensely disliked Darrel Issa to this day.

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...