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Rough Beginning at Oversight Committee

Top Panel Members Issa and Cummings Can’t Seem to Agree on Anything

File Photo
Oversight ranking member Elijah Cummings (left) and Chairman Darrell Issa are having a hard time hiding their disdain for each other.

Newly minted Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa and ranking member Elijah Cummings are having a hard time hiding their antagonism toward one another.

And the panel has barely gotten started.

Tensions have flared between the California Republican and Maryland Democrat over the past month on everything from whether the minority will be allowed to provide opening statements at hearings and have input over subpoenas to whether Democrats will be allowed to call witnesses.

The battles have largely played out in letters between the two lawmakers and through the media. The latest salvo came earlier this week when Cummings tried to circumvent Issa by trying to obtain materials from industry groups that the chairman declined to immediately share with minority staff.

Cummings sent letters to more than 100 organizations requesting copies of their responses to Issa about which administration regulations impede job growth.

Cummings said in a statement that withholding committee records is a violation of House rules and that his latest appeal could have been avoided.

"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, who has only chaired the panel for a few weeks, has said that he is committed to sharing documents but that Cummings' demands are inconsistent with the precedent Democrats set when they were in charge. He plans to release the documents and his staff's analysis by Feb. 11.

Longtime observers of the Oversight Committee say sparring between the top two panel Members is less about process and more about partisanship. The panel is charged with overseeing the actions of the administration, pitting itself directly against President Barack Obama.

While Issa has served as the top Republican on the panel since 2008, this is his first turn leading the committee. He has set an aggressive agenda: calling for hearings seven days a week while also moving to aggressively investigate Obama's signature health care reform law and federal stimulus program.

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