The top Republican and Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sent dueling letters to each other Monday over how the panel will investigate the Obama administration.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have been sparring for the past several weeks over how the committee should proceed.
Issa wrote Monday that he will be focusing on “receiving, organizing, and analyzing responses” to his inquiries into whether the administration’s polices are impeding private-sector job creation and whether specific regulations need to have further scrutiny.
“Despite your public and inaccurate accusation that this effort is ‘tantamount to “inviting businesses to tell us what they want us to do as opposed to protecting the American people,”’ I very much want to ensure that the voice of the American people is heard in the Halls of Congress,” Issa wrote, noting that the Oversight panel recently launched a website, AmericanJobCreators.com, which will accept input from users across the country.
Issa said that the responses should be made public no later than Feb. 11.
Cummings, who met with Issa on Monday to hash out unresolved issues, followed up the face-to-face meeting with a five-page letter asking Issa to allow Democrats unfettered access to committee records and to refrain from authorizing unilateral subpoenas.
Cummings wrote in the letter that he and minority committee staff have not had access to the letters Issa has sent to administration officials and to private-sector entities asking for input and any responses to those requests for information.
Cummings said Issa’s decision to have his own staff evaluate the letters and make them available to the public is not appropriate.
“This is patently unfair and deprives the minority of the ability to analyze these documents,” Cummings wrote, noting that Issa’s defense that these requests to the private sector were sent when Republicans were in the minority is not valid. “I do not believe this is a valid reason for denying my staff access to these documents now, especially since your letter today makes clear that you are continuing this investigation as Chairman and that the majority Committee staff are currently reviewing these documents to prepare for an official report to be issued on February 11.”
Cummings told Issa that he would not be able to support the rules package that is expected to be adopted Tuesday unless Issa foreswears unilateral subpoenas and opens the files to Democrats.
“I believe your approach reverses the responsible, bipartisan practices followed by your predecessors and risks returning to an era of Committee’s history when it was criticized for abusive practices,” Cummings wrote.
A committee spokesman disputed Cummings’ assertions, arguing that the Maryland Democrat is trying to be an obstructionist.
“Since assuming the position as Ranking Member, it is evident that obstruction is the only agenda Mr. Cummings is interested in pursuing,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Ultimately, the fellow Democratic members of the Committee will have to judge for themselves if they are comfortable with following his path of unilateral obstructionism. The bottom line is Mr. Cummings’ aggressive pursuit of obstructionism will not in any way diminish the commitment House Republicans have made to the American people to pursue an agenda that seeks to make government more transparent and more accountable.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.