Republicans Block Democratic Attempt to Force Public Issa Apology on House Floor (Updated) (Video)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted March 13, 2014 at 6:02pm

Updated 8:12 p.m. | Republicans once again blocked a Democratic resolution demanding a House floor apology from Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa for silencing Rep. Elijah E. Cummings last week during an IRS hearing.  

The nearly party line vote to table the privileged resolution came after a theatrical display of protest on the floor, with Democrats refusing to give up on the issue.

“This was not just a violation of Mr. Issa’s treatment of Mr. Cummings,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., a freshman lawmaker who introduced the resolution on Thursday. “My resolution was about Mr. Issa’s offense against the House.”  

“If we don’t enforce the rules,” Kildee said, “where do we go?”  

As Kildee and his Democratic colleagues offered the resolution, they defiantly held pictures of Issa making the throat-cutting motion, displaying the image on iPads, iPhones and paper. A floor procedure kerfuffle, in which a new House precedent may have been established, ensued.  

Presiding officer Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, insisted that that “House will not proceed” as long as Democrats continued to hold up their iPads displaying the image.  

“Regular order would be putting the iPads down,” Simpson said.  

When Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., made a parliamentary inquiry as to where in the House rules it stated members could not hold up iPads, Simpson said the ruling was at the discretion of the chair.  

Democrats moaned, but eventually, begrudgingly, put down their iPads and iPhones. (Rules Committee ranking Democrat Louise M. Slaughter quietly held up her phone even after Simpson’s ruling.)  

Members continued holding up the pictures that Democrats had printed out, but Simpson wasn’t having that either.  

The presiding officer declared that “only the member under recognition can hold up the display,” and eventually, after the theatrics and rules were settled, the Democrats put down their pictures and offered the resolution.  

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., promptly moved to table it, both sides screamed a voice vote, a roll call vote was ordered, and the House voted 217-173 in favor of tabling the resolution, with six Republicans and four Democrats voting present. (The present votes came from the nine members of the Ethics Committee and Issa. The Ethics Committee may yet have to consider the issue.)  

(On Thursday evening, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reiterated Boehner’s continued support for Issa.)  

One Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, voted with Republicans in favor of tabling.  

While Democrats offered the resolution, Cummings quietly sat separated from his Democratic colleagues beside Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va. As the vote took place, Cummings quickly and quietly slipped out of the chamber.  

Issa already apologized personally to Cummings, the ranking member of Issa’s panel, last week, and Cummings accepted the apology. But that’s not enough for many of Cummings’ colleagues.  

“Ranking Member Cummings accepted Chairman Issa’s apology, but it is clear that the Chairman has violated House rules and seriously offended a lot of other Members of Congress in the process, and they are not satisfied with the way he is conducting the committee,” a Democratic committee aide told CQ Roll Call.  

Democrats could continue to offer similar resolutions, trying to grab more headlines and increasingly paint Issa as a chairman tyrant, but Republicans look poised to just as quickly shelve the resolutions and move on.  

Fellow Oversight and Government Reform Committee colleague Gerrold Connolly, D-Va., hopes Democrats continue to press the issue.  

“Even if Elijah didn’t want us to do this, this is on behalf of the institution,” Connolly told CQ Roll Call after the vote, adding that he hopes House GOP leaders ultimately decide to push Issa to make amends publicly.  

“He privately apologized to Mr. Cummings, then went on Fox News and accused him of having a ‘hissy fit,'” Connolly said. “How sincere was that apology?”  

(The “hissy fit” interview was pretaped before the apology , Issa’s office noted last week.)  

The House voted on party lines to shelve another resolution condemning Issa’s conduct last week.  

Here’s the text of the resolution provided via email by Democratic aides:


Whereas on March 5, 2014, during a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa gave a statement and then posed ten questions to former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner, who stated that she was invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify;

Whereas the Committee’s Ranking Member, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, clearly sought recognition to take his turn for questions under Committee and House Rules;

Whereas, Chairman Issa then unilaterally adjourned the hearing and refused to allow him to make any statement or ask any questions;

Whereas Ranking Member Cummings protested immediately, stating: “Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a Committee like this. You just cannot do this. This is, we are better than that as a country, we are better than that as a Committee.”

Whereas, Chairman Issa then returned and allowed Ranking Member Cummings to begin his statement, but when it became clear that Chairman Issa did not want to hear what Ranking Member Cummings was saying, turned off Ranking Member Cummings’ microphone, ordered Republican staff to “close it down,” and repeatedly signaled to end the hearing with his hand across his neck;

Whereas Ranking Member Cummings objected again, stating: “You cannot have a one-sided investigation. There is absolutely something wrong with that.”;

Whereas Chairman Issa made a statement of his own and posed questions during the hearing, but refused to allow other members of the Committee, and in particular the Ranking Member who had sought recognition, to make statements under the five-minute rule in violation of House Rule XI;

Whereas Chairman Issa instructed the microphones be turned off and adjourned the hearing without a vote or a unanimous consent agreement in violation of Rule XVI because he did not want to permit Ranking Member Cummings to speak;

Whereas Chairman Issa’s abusive behavior on March 5 is part of a continuing pattern in which he has routinely excluded members of the Committee from investigative meetings, has turned off Members’ microphones while they were questioning a witness, attempted to prevent witnesses from answering questions, and has provided information to the press before sharing it with Committee members;

Whereas on July 18, 2003, former Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas (R-CA) asked the United States Capitol Police to remove minority members of the Committee from the library where they were having a discussion about a pending committee mark up, and subsequently came to the well of the U.S. House of Representatives to publicly apologize for his belligerent behavior;

Whereas Chairman Issa has violated Clause 1 of Rule XXIII of the Code of Official Conduct which states that “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives strongly condemns the offensive and disrespectful manner in which Chairman Darrell E. Issa conducted the hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on March 5, 2014, and requires that he come to the well of the House to issue a public apology to Members of the House.