Feisty Issa Spars with Committee Members over Procedures in First Oversight Hearing

By Eliza

Jan 26, 2011 11:35am

ABC News’ Arlette Saenz reports:

After last night’s show of civility across party lines at the State of the Union, Rep. Darrell Issa’s first Oversight Committee hearing on bailouts and the foreclosure crisis started with a bout over procedure.

At the start of the hearing, chairman Rep. Darrell Issa announced the committee members would waive their opening statements and instead would have seven days to place them into the record.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s ranking Democrat, immediately fought back questioning this deviation in traditional procedure, but Issa held his ground.

“I recognize that tradition is we hold the members, the witnesses here for sometimes an hour through opening statements.  That is a tradition that I intend to break,” Issa said.  “That doesn’t mean there won’t be opening statements in the future.”

Issa’s decision to omit opening statements at the hearing stems from his desire to hear from the witnesses, Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for TARP, and Tim Massad, a Treasury official, first instead of from the committee members.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich later interrupted and stated, “I’ve been in the Congress for 14 years, and I’ve never – it’s just unprecedented that the ranking member not be permitted to give an opening statement.”

Issa shot down Kucinich and continued to stop Rep. Stephen Lynch from voicing his opinion on the issue as well.

When Cummings and Kucinich were given their opportunities to question the witnesses, they went after Issa for not inviting members of the industry to testify at the hearing.

“Mr. Chairman, We cannot do a comprehensive examination of the foreclosure crisis without hearing from the industry,” Cummings said.

Issa insisted he intended this hearing to focus only on government officials and that a later hearing including industry witnesses would occur.

Issa started the hearing by asking that people excuse him for any mistakes he might make in the first hearing, but despite this mea culpa, it’s apparent that some members are unhappy with the break in tradition. 

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