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Issa agrees to ‘freeze’ legislation on D.C. hiring practices

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Rep. Darrell E. Issa has agreed to "freeze" legislation that would impose background checks and other guidelines for vetting D.C. employees in the wake of nepotism scandals that hit city hall earlier this year.

Mr. Issa agreed to hold off on his bill, which D.C. officials decried Monday as more congressional meddling in their affairs, after council Chairman Kwame R. Brown reached out to him Tuesday morning.

Mr. Brown assured Mr. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, that city officials would move forward in the next two months to enact their own reform of how city employees are vetted and hired.

The officials had a "good exchange" and "agreed that we both wanted the same outcome," Mr. Brown said.

"I think that's a perfect example of the council and Congress working together in areas that can move the city forward," Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Issa had planned to mark up the bill, which imposes criminal background checks on political appointees and puts city vetting in line with the process for federal employees, on Thursday.

D.C. officials objected, noting their own legislation imposes just as many, if not more, safeguards than Mr. Issa's bill.

The proposal coincided with the release of a report by Mr. Issa's oversight committee on allegations made by Sulaimon Brown, a minor mayoral candidate who claims Mayor Vincent C. Gray and his advisers paid him and promised him a job to disparage incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty during the campaign.

The committee found no direct evidence of a job promise but did criticize the vetting of Mr. Brown before he was hired to a $110,000-a-year job at the city Department of Health Care Finance.

A spokesman for the House committee confirmed Tuesday that Mr. Issa agreed to give D.C. officials time to reform their own practices.

The pact is a rare instance of cooperation between Congress and the D.C. Council, which is always wary of federal interference in local affairs by officials on Capitol Hill.

Before the deal, council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, had planned to introduce a resolution that condemns Mr. Issa's bill.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting member of Congress, is a frequent critic of federal interference in local affairs and first sounded the alarm about Mr. Issa's bill on Monday afternoon.

Mr. Gray, Mrs. Norton and Mr. Brown, the chairman, were among officials who protested the District's lack of voting rights at a recent rally ahead of the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

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