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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/25/2011

Darrell Issa vs. Elijah Cummings feud heats up

By Ed O'Keefe

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Eye Opener

Updated 7:31 a.m. ET
Congress may be getting ready for a big bipartisan kumbaya moment at tonight's State of the Union address, but don't expect many smiles between Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the House lawmakers chiefly responsible for oversight of federal agencies and top government officials.

A meeting Monday between the Issa and Cummings, the respective chairman and ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, didn't go well. And in a jab meant in part to raise questions about Cummings's leadership, Issa plans to sit tonight with Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the committee's former chairman.

Issa believes Towns was pushed aside by Democrats in favor of Cummings because the former chairman worked too closely with Republicans.

The seating snub comes as Cummings is criticizing Issa's plans to issue subpoenas for committee investigations without consulting Democrats. The plans go against the tradition and precedence of seeking the concurrence of the minority party and holding a full committee vote before issuing subpoenas, Cummings said in a letter sent to Issa after they met to discuss committee housekeeping issues.

Cummings wrote that Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) consulted each other on subpoenas when they served as chairman and ranking member during the Bush administration. William Clinger (R-Pa.) and Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.) did it too in the 1990s.

"This approach was also followed in the Iran-Contra investigation, the Senate Whitewater
investigation, and the Senate campaign finance investigation," Cummings said, adding later that Issa promised last fall that to consult Democrats about subpoenas.

Not true, according to a response Issa sent to Cummings early Tuesday. The California Republican chairman noted that Towns didn't always consult him before issuing subpoenas.

"I have clearly and unambiguously told you that I, as Chairman, am committed to doing so going forward," Issa wrote. "I have never stated that I would not bring a subpoena before the committee and would, in fact, seriously consider such a request."

Granting Cummings's wish to be consulted on every subpoena would give the minority party "unprecedented new powers to obstruct oversight," Issa said.

But Democrats aren't the only group concerned about Issa's plans. The Washington law firm Covington & Burling warned Monday that companies under strict federal regulation or receiving TARP or economic stimulus funds "should work now to develop a clear understanding of areas that present potential risks for congressional investigations." The firm, often used by companies and officials called before Congress, urged such companies to hire lawyers "familiar with the unique challenges of congressional investigations, such as Congress's position that it need not recognize the attorney-client privilege."

Republican committee staffers always anticipated that Cummings would strike an adversarial, uncooperative tone. They were surprised when Democrats picked Cummings over Towns and another experienced committee member, Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), suggesting he would serve as more of a partisan bomb-thrower than honest broker.

Indeed, in a seven-page letter sent to Issa last week, Cummings said he hoped to work with him on "responsible oversight," but failed to list proposed topics of inquiry and used six pages to raise questions about Issa's tenure as the committee's ranking member.

"Ultimately, the fellow Democratic members of the committee will have to judge for themselves if they are comfortable with following [Cummings's] path of unilateral obstructionism," Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said Monday.

As for tonight, Cummings plans to sit with freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), the new vice chairman of the Oversight panel's subcommittee on health care and the District of Columbia.

According to Cummings's office, the pair chose to sit together "because of their mutual interest in the cause of improving pediatric dentistry."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Vice President Biden dismissed quickly from Delaware jury duty. First Lady Michelle Obama's State of the Union guests. Rahm Emanuel ruled ineligible for the Chicago mayor ballot. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton makes a one-day visit to Mexico. Carol Browner is leaving the White House. Obama to nominate White House lawyer Donald Verrilli as solicitor general. Treasury Department's point man on terror spending is departing. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia gives lawmakers a relatively politics-free tutorial on the Constitution. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to visit Texas next week. An interview with USAID Chief Rajiv Shah. Bush-era officials violated the Hatch Act, report finds.

Audit: Military lacks overall plan for Afghan building projects: More than $11 billion in U.S. funding to construct and maintain bases for rapidly expanding Afghan security forces is at "risk of being wasted" because the military has no comprehensive plan for the program.

Air Force's new surveillance system for aerial drones not working as hoped: The new system, dubbed Gorgon Stare, had "significant limitations," including an inability to track people on the ground in real time, and a delay in sending real-time images to the ground.

Increasingly confident Fed set for first meeting of 2011: It will use its first policy meeting of the year to revisit its economic projections amid a climate of modest but increasing confidence about the recovery.

Feud over best setting for the disabled: The Justice Department in a lawsuit against Arkansas is reigniting an emotional fight over the role of residential institutions for people with disabilities.

Jared Loughner, Ariz. shooting suspect, appears in court; not guilty plea entered: Prosecutors said they will try to have all the federal charges filed within 45 days, including the two murder charges based on forthcoming indictments.

Agencies outline efforts to support military families: The effort follows Obama's orders to agency heads to take a coordinated, comprehensive approach to assisting troops' and veterans' families.

For NASA, longest countdown awaits: When the space shuttles are retired this year the agency will no longer have its own means for getting American astronauts to space.

Historian accused of altering Lincoln document at National Archives: It said Monday that a pardon that has transfixed Lincoln historians for 13 years was altered by the man who came across it in the research room of the agency in downtown Washington.

Postal Service to close 2,000 sites in next two years: It's targeting smaller, mostly leased sites, often in skyscrapers or shopping plazas that don't employ letter carriers.

SEC study recommends more oversight of brokers: It said investment advisers and stockbrokers should be subject to the same fiduciary standard of conduct.

U.S. airport visitors vulnerable, security experts say: Just like the dozens killed and injured at a Moscow airport on Monday, visitors to U.S. airports are vulnerable to a terrorist who walks into their midst laden with explosives.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 25, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Eye Opener, Oversight  
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What, Darrell Issa wants a passive Democrat who will go along with his highly partisan hit jobs during the coming two years? Big surprise. He just can't stand someone standing up to him. Issa is on a strictly partisan mission to get Obama and his adminstration, and he will stop at nothing. Thankfully Cummings is there representing Democrats. Issa is the one who needs to be investigated - read the piece in this week's New Yorker to see why.

Posted by: mglbrown1 | January 25, 2011 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Even if Issa uncovered actual, real corruption no one would believe it because he is such a partisan hack on an obvious witch hunt. He will probably try to blame Obama for 9/11.

Posted by: treefrog2 | January 25, 2011 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Cummings, like most Democrats, has no idea of even the simplest concepts of the market economy. He probably believes that "cost-benefit analysis" is a test his proctologist gives him each year.

Posted by: derekcrane | January 25, 2011 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Issa is a wanna be "Pretty Boy Floyd" that didn't make it in the criminal world(although God knows he tried). He has the ethics of a shark, and isn't to be trusted. It's hard to respect the man knowing his past.

Posted by: clintt5 | January 25, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Congressman Issa needs to find out that Democrats have the ability to say "no" just as Republicans do. I applaud the choice of Elijah Cummings as ranking member. Maybe he can slow down Mr. Issa's partisan witch hunt.

Posted by: ancient_mariner | January 25, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Cummings is going to try to be the "obstructionist" to try to stop Issa from investigating the corruption that has been going on the last few years.

That's why the Dems have been trying to get dirt on Issa to try and slow him down.

The Chicago Way of doing business.

Posted by: janet8 | January 25, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Don't even try to make Cummings the bad guy here. Issa is a thug and punk. He never grew up.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 25, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Republican Issa is following in the footsteps of Rep. Peter King who proclaimed it necessary to investigate the Clinton Administration for the "stench of Whitewater". That President was impeached by the Republicans for a BeeJay.

Posted by: kurtandstephen | January 25, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Issa Cumming to get ya!

Posted by: Garak | January 25, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Republican Congressman Issa is following in the footsteps of fellow Republican Congressman Peter King, who proclaimed it necessary to investigate the Clinton Administration for the "stench of Whitewater".

Posted by: kurtandstephen | January 25, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

So when is Issa going to open investigations into today's report of the bush administration using taxpayer money and executive branch staff to campaign for republicon in a clear violation of several US laws? Talk about corruption and a waste of taxpayer money. He certainly will want to get right to this and demanbd prosecutions..

Oh, never mind. He is not actually interested in saving taxpayer money or justice. Just trying to make Democrats look bad by using witch hhunts and half truths mixed with flat out lies.

Posted by: John1263 | January 25, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

No one has to dig to get dirt on Issa. just look at his long established bio.

When is he going to ramp up his investigations of the waste of taxpayer money to finance republicon campaigns in 2006, as reported out today? When is he going to demand restitution from the republicon party and prosecution of those guilty of violating federal laws?

Or is it possible that he is justa mccartyite partisan hack?

Posted by: John1263 | January 25, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

issa is a joke to his own constituents, or maybe the joke is on them having a car thief as their rep.

Posted by: calif-joe | January 25, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Obstructing mccarthyism is good for America. Go Cummings. Good choice by the Democratic party to keep that tool issa in check. He is a power mad little troll.

Posted by: John1263 | January 25, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Obstructing mccarthyism is good for America. Go Cummings. Good choice by the Democratic party to keep that tool issa in check. He is a power mad little troll.

Posted by: John1263 | January 25, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Will they sit together tonight at the State of the Union address?

Posted by: Garak | January 25, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Crashed California now he wants to finish off the U.S..

Posted by: WmLaney | January 25, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Issa might be soon fighting to save his job as the bank fraud comes to light and the law makers involved. Issa got a pass with the Brett Wilks case when AG Lame was quickly fired before she filed indictments in which Issa and Lewis were involved. Now evidence of Bush Administration violating the Hatch Act. Thanks to Wikileaks we will learn of more crimes done by Republicans that Issa doesn't want to deal with.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | January 25, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Why are there pictures on this story? Does the Washington Post hate black people?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 25, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Go, Issa, go!! GET 'EM!!!

Posted by: annnort | January 25, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Issa unprecedented new powers to obstruct this Administration - just like Paul Ryan wants unprecedented new powers to be the sole single decider of what goes in the budget.

Issa is serving as nothing more than a partisan b0mb-thrower than honest broker.

To answer Kurt Bardella- yes, I am very comfortable having Cummings serving as a buffer for the b0mbs Issa wants to throw.

Now, Issa & Bardella - WHERE ARE THE JOBS!!!!

Posted by: beer2_go | January 26, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

This is funny. Issa is dirty as the day is long. I hope this comes back to bite the republicans.

Posted by: HonorRallyMyAss | January 26, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

You couldn't get me to sit next to Issa even if you offered to give me ALL the money he got by selling stolen cars.

Posted by: beer2_go | January 26, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

How is it possible that a criminal be appointed as chairman of a committee to investigate government reform? Who wouldn't strenuously object to this man investigating anyone with his criminal mentality?
Below is a biograph of Darrell Issa and the crimes he's committed.

Posted by: lindaheld28 | January 26, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

How is it possible that a criminal be appointed as chairman of a committee to investigate government reform? Who wouldn't strenuously object to this man investigating anyone with his criminal mentality?
Below is a biograph of Darrell Issa and the crimes he's committed.

Posted by: lindaheld28 | January 26, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Since Issa does control the Oversight Committee and his aim is to discredit the Obama Administration, wouldn't it be a better strategy for Cummings to take out his copy of Roberts Rules of Order and offer a series of investigative initiatives that will focus on real bureaucratic incompetence or jurisdictional jungles as the President himself indicated in his SOTU? This guy Issa can be hoisted right up on his own petard with a little parliamentary legerdemain.

Posted by: dr11231 | January 26, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

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