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Oversight Democrats Protest Committee Rules

Republicans and Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee continued their public disagreement over how the panel should operate with ranking member Elijah Cummings leading all of the Democrats present in voting against adoption of the chairman’s proposed committee rules Tuesday.

At the committee’s first hearing of the 112th Congress, the Maryland Democrat continued to take issue with the operating procedures of Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) with regard to subpoenas and sharing of documents. The rules will allow Issa to request subpoenas without a vote by the full committee. Issa said at the hearing that he would consult Cummings personally before issuing subpoenas.

“Consultation is not required, however I believe it is a worthwhile practice and it is my intention to consult prior to a subpoena being issued,” Issa said.

Cummings presented two separate amendments on subpoena power to the rules package. Both failed on party-line votes, and Issa’s rules were adopted.

Issa and Cummings have been sparring for weeks as a prelude to an expected barrage of investigations Republicans have on tap. House Democrats have been concerned particularly with Issa’s planned inquiries into the Obama administration.

On Monday, Cummings publicly released a letter he sent to Issa raising concerns about the rules, and Issa responded forcefully, saying the ranking member was picked for the position solely for the purpose of obstruction.

“He campaigned on that, those are his words, not mine,” Issa said. “He basically said he was tough enough to take me on, to stop me and so on. It’s for him to show that he wants to work together against waste, fraud and abuse. … I contend that Chairman Towns got being fired for being too fair.”

Cummings said that he would let the letter “speak for itself” and declined to comment further.