COMMENTARY: Diss Angers CBC Chair In Congressional Spat

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  • Rep. Elijah Cummings, always a gracious legislator, declined to say whether he felt disrespected after Republican Rep. Darrell Issa rudely turned off Cummings’ microphone during a congressional hearing this week. Issa, perhaps the most contentious Republican on Capitol Hill, ignored Cummings, abruptly adjourned the hearing, turned his back on Cummings, and stormed out of the room.

    So since Cummings won’t say it, I’ll say it for him: Issa’s behavior was the height of disrespect toward Cummings and a new low for Issa, who seems to relish insulting and denigrating black politicians.

    Simply put, Issa owes Cummings an apology.

    The confrontation between Issa and Cummings became heated Wednesday during a congressional hearing where Lois Lerner, a former senior official at the Internal Revenue Service, was testifying about the IRS controversy over the targeting of conservative groups. Issa is Chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee.

    But during a discussion over a procedural question, Issa said the hearing was abruptly adjourned and told the committee staff to “close it down.” Issa looked at Cummings, ignored him, and adjourned the hearing by slamming the gavel.

    “Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?” Cummings yelled.

    “We’ve adjourned,” Issa said.

    As a journalist who has covered politics for many years, I have watched Cummings earn his reputation as a gentleman legislator. Cummings is always polite, gracious and good-natured. But he’s no pushover – and he will fire back when necessary.

    “Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this,” Cummings shouted. “We’re better than that as a committee. I have asked for a few minutes to ask a procedural — ” “The fact is I am asking a question. I am the ranking member of this committee and I want to ask a question! What are we hiding? What’s the big deal? May I ask my question? May I make my statement?”

    “I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America! I am tired of this!” Cummings shouted. “You cannot just have a one-sided investigation…”It is absolutely un-American.”

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