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Darrell Issa apologizes to Elijah Cummings for conduct in cutting off microphone

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A chastened Rep. Darrell Issa says he has apologized yesterday to a fellow senior lawmaker for abruptly cutting off his microphone during a hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Issa said he made a personal apology on Thursday to the man he silenced, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. "Mr. Cummings is a member of Congress who works very hard for his constituents," he said. Issa’s remarks came during a telephonic conversation with U-T San Diego after a House condemnation resolution pressed by Democrats earlier in the day failed to pass.

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-08), regarding House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s (CA-49) conduct. The resolution called for sanctioning Issa for “the offensive and disrespectful manner” in which he conducted the hearing on Capitol Hill. The resolution failed on a vote of 211-186 as House Republicans refused to back it.

But it was enough to force the apology from Issa.

The conduct in question came during yesterday’s committee hearing on the Internal Revenue Service, when Issa shut off the microphone of House Oversight Democratic Ranking Member, Rep. Elijah Cummings.

"I am a member of the Congress of the United States. I am tired of this," said Cummings at yesterday's hearing of the committee. Issa had just cut off the microphone of the Cummings.

"Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this," Cummings said, as Issa spoke over him again cutting off the microphone. The two leaders of the House Oversight Committee got into a shouting match over whether Cummings had a right to speak, and the dust-up led lawmakers on the panel to shout "shame."

A video of Issa-Cummings dispute during a hearing on whether the Internal Revenue Service has targeted tea party type groups went viral in political circles Wednesday.

Cummings exploded when Issa refused to let him make a statement and ask a question. Issa had moments earlier brought the hearing to an end after IRS official Lois Lerner refused to testify about an issue House Democrats say is nothing more than a political witch hunt.

Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the panel, and he and Issa have jousted before. But cutting Cummings off drew the ire of the Congressional Black Caucus, which petitioned Speaker John Boehner to strip Issa of the chairmanship he has held for the last three years.

Issa called what happened “an unfortunate incident.” When Lerner refused to testify, Issa ended the hearing and signaled committee staffers to turn off lawmaker microphones.

As those were being shut down, Cummins pleaded for more time to ask another question. Instead of asking a question immediately, Cumming accused Issa of leading a “one-sided” probe.

Nonetheless, Issa said he should have taken another tack.

"I could have offered to reopen the hearing and allowed him to make a second statement," he said. "As chairman, I should have been much more sensitive to the mood of what was going on, and I take responsibility." While no House or committee rules were broken, Issa said it’s his responsibility when a committee member is upset.

When they spoke, Issa said he and Cummings talked about how each could "do a better job going forward." Their discussion also included whistle blower legislation from Cummings that Issa has agreed to co-sponsor.

In a meeting with reporters in Washington before they spoke, Cummings said he "didn’t want to get caught up in the disrespect" but said Issa had been "undemocratic and unfair."

"A number of Republican members on our committee have come up and said to me, 'Don’t tell him, but I apologize. You shouldn’t have been treated that way,'" Cummings said.

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Sources:

U-T San Diego newspaper - Issa apology

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Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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