March 6th, 2014
08:39 PM ET

Rep. Cummings slams Issa for cutting mic at IRS hearing: "That is no way to run a Committee"

Calls for the removal of a powerful congressman from his leadership post.

Democrats are demanding that House Speaker John Boehner remove Republican Congressman Darrell Issa as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

In a letter to the Speaker, the Congressional Black Caucus said Issa "abused his authority" at an IRS hearing Wednesday when he clashed with the Democratic ranking member of the committee Elijah Cummings.

Issa refused to take Cummings' statement and muted his microphone when he protested an early end to the hearing during which Lerner again refused to testify.

Boehner: Issa within 'rights' to shut down lawmaker

House Speaker John Boehner said Rep. Darrell Issa was justified in ending a hearing on IRS targeting of conservative groups.

"From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was in his rights to adjourn the hearing," Boehner told reporters on Thursday.

Cummings told CNN's Erin Burnett that he was 'shocked' by Boehner's response.

"You cannot have a situation where the minority is silenced so that and prevent it from speaking one syllable," Cummings said. " That's what Issa was trying to do, preventing the minority from speaking one syllable at a hearing."


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR:  Joining me now, the man at the center of the exchange.  You see him there, Congressman Elijah Cummings.

And, Congressman, good to have you with us.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND:  Good to be with you, Erin.

BURNETT:  Should Congressman Issa lose his chairmanship because of that?

CUMMINGS:  That’s going to be up to the Republican Caucus.  I would hope that they would look at the tape that you just showed and see that that is no way to run a committee.  But I leave that up to them, that they'll make that decision.

But I would hope that - Speaker Boehner said today that he thought that Chairman Issa was acting appropriately and I was shocked to hear that because, clearly, you cannot have a situation where the minority is silenced so that and prevent it from speaking one syllable.  That's what Issa was trying to do, preventing the minority from speaking one syllable at a hearing.  It doesn't work that way.  It's not the American (AUDIO GAP) and that’s not the democratic way.

BURNETT:  Let me just play for our viewers what Speaker Boehner said today to defend Congressman Issa.  Here he is.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was within his rights to adjourn the hearing when he did.

REPORTER:  Do you approve the way he acted and are you prepared to say you're not going to replace him as chairman?

BOEHNER:  Darrell Issa is the chairman.  He’s done an effective job as chairman.  And I support him.


BURNETT:  That's pretty - pretty declarative.

CUMMINGS:  Yes.  I mean, again, that's up to them.  But I got to tell you, I’m hoping that Speaker Boehner will, again, look at what happened and I cannot imagine a Democrat chairman cutting off the mike of a Republican.  I cannot imagine it.  And I would never do it.

I think that I respect my colleagues, all of us representing over 700,000 people.  I respect their voices and I want to hear their voices.  I will fight to hear their voices.

BURNETT:  Now, what do you think caused Congressman Issa to do this?  Obviously, he was frustrated, he says, because Lois Lerner, who was formerly with the IRS, was testifying and she kept just taking the Fifth, right?  Keep taking the Fifth, and wasn’t saying anything.  That's why he says - he’ll say he did what he did.

But why is the Congressional Black Caucus calling for him to step down?  I mean, it sounds like you're supporting that, you’re being careful with your words, I understand that.


BURNETT:  But, go ahead -

CUMMINGS:  Erin, let's be clear.  It's questionable.  Nobody seems to know what Chairman Issa wants.  It seems as if there's an effort to draw this thing out to the 2014 elections in November.

And, so, come on.  He could have gotten information yesterday and he refused to get it.  And shut me off.  Shut completely.  And then he said, the reason why he shut me off is basically that he didn't like what I was saying and he didn't like what he thought I would be saying.  Come on, please.

BURNETT:  Now, have you - obviously, it sounds like you haven't spoken to Chairman Issa.

CUMMINGS:  I spoke to him briefly today.

BURNETT:  And how was that?  Was it civil?  It doesn't sound like he apologized, or you wouldn’t -

CUMMINGS:  No, he has not - he has not apologized.  I didn't expect him to apologize.  I didn't.

This is not the first time that this has happened.  Congressman Tierney of our committee was shut down - was his mic was turned off a few weeks ago, the same kind of activity.

BURNETT:  Now, you mentioned this isn't the first time this happened.  You’re talking about an incident with the chairman cutting off a mic a couple weeks ago.

It’s also not the first time that you and Chairman Issa had had run-ins with each other.  Over the summer, he faced some heat for what many called was an inappropriate comment.  He used the quote (AUDIO GAP) referred to you as a little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar.  Some people questioned his use of the word "boy".  They said that there was some sort of racial motivation in that.

Now, obviously, the Congressional Black Caucus is coming out and asking for his - for him to step down as chairman of this committee.

Do you think there is a pattern of disrespect to you, specifically, from Darrell Issa?

CUMMINGS:  Erin, I just told you that he disrespected my colleague, Mr. Tierney, and Mr. Tierney is white.  I’m not going to get caught up in the racial piece because that simply ends up being a distraction and it becomes the headline.

BURNETT:  All right.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate your time, Congressman.

CUMMINGS:  Thank you.


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