Updated 4:44 p.m. | House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa gaveled open Wednesday morning's hearing on the White House's new political office without what would have been his star witness — top Obama political adviser David Simas.
The California Republican called a letter from White House Counsel W. Neil Eggleston asserting Simas is immune to subpoenas as a top White House aide "deeply disturbing." Issa argued the White House's position violated checks and balances.
"In the Miers-Bolton lawsuit brought by Democrats when they were in the majority, a federal judge wrote that senior advisers to the president of the United States are – and I quote – 'not absolutely immune from congressional process,'" he said.
He also cited the investigations by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., into the Bush administration's political activities.
Issa said he has exercised patience for months.
"It’s deeply ironic that an administration claiming to be the most transparent ever has resisted oversight of its political office and offered less cooperation than any of its predecessors," Issa charged.
And countering the White House argument that he hadn't shown any evidence of wrongdoing, Issa said "we should not need a smoking gun" to look into whether taxpayer dollars are being spent properly.
Issa didn't announce what he will do next. But the subpoena fight could end up in court, alongside another House lawsuit asserting Obama violated his duty by failing to enforce the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., blasted Issa's subpoena.
"We do not simply haul in one of the president's top advisers at will," Cummings said.
He said Issa had failed to show any evidence that would be a foundation for such a subpoena. He said he supports the power to subpoena administration officials, but he would not support the abuse of that power.
Cummings on Wednesday showed a video of Issa promising to take his concerns and the concerns of other members of the committee about issuing subpoenas into account, which Cummings said was not done in the Simas case or in many other cases where Issa has issued subpoenas on his own without a vote of the committee.
"You did not ask other members if you were nuts," Cummings said.
And Cummings said the investigation into the Bush administration was different because it centered on political interference into the firing of U.S. attorneys, and there was an impasse over getting information.