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Cummings Bypasses Issa in Fight Over Access to Letters

House Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Elijah Cummings moved Monday to circumvent Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in a fight over access to the chairman’s regulatory research.

Issa has asked industry groups to identify regulations that impede job growth, but he has declined to immediately share the findings with the panel’s Democratic minority. In a continuation of the public friction between the two lawmakers, Cummings sent letters Monday to more than 100 organizations requesting copies of their responses.

“Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain copies of any responses to the Chairman’s letters directly from the Chairman,” the Maryland Democrat wrote to groups including the American Meat Institute. “Without having the benefit of your response, Democratic Committee Members are being prevented from adequately preparing for a hearing the Chairman intends to hold in the coming weeks on this issue.”

Cummings also asked recipients that haven’t yet responded to include the minority in their correspondence.

Cummings said in a statement that withholding committee records is a violation of House rules and that his latest appeal could have been avoided if Issa would act in a bipartisan way.

“I fully support bipartisan efforts to improve federal regulations to increase job growth while preserving the core safeguards these regulations were intended to protect,” Cummings said. “But since Chairman Issa has refused to provide Democrats with copies of the industry responses he has received to date, we have no choice but to request them ourselves.”

Issa has said that he is committed to sharing documents but that Cummings’ demands are inconsistent with committee precedent set when Democrats had the majority.

“The interpretation of House and Committee rules in your letter, however, is extreme and inconsistent with past actions of the committee,” Issa wrote Cummings this month. “Under both Chairman [Edolphus] Towns and Chairman [Henry] Waxman there were numerous occasions when the minority sought and were denied access to information related to committee business.”

A committee spokesman for Issa said in a statement Monday that he was encouraged to see Cummings’ engagement.

“While Chairman Issa and President [Barack] Obama believe it makes sense to listen to job creators about impediments to job creation, Mr. Cummings perceives this effort as somehow being one ‘opposed to protecting the American people,’” the spokesman said, saying he was quoting Cummings from an appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews.” “It’s reassuring that he may have re-evaluated his perspective on the benefits of examining regulatory barriers to job creation.”

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