House Republicans beat back a push from Democrats Thursday to force Rep. Darrell Issa to formally apologize on the House floor after he cut off the microphone of the top Democrat on the oversight committee last week during a heated hearing.
The House voted 217-173 to table the “privileged resolution” introduced by Rep. Dan Kildee, Michigan Democrat, effectively killing it. Ten members voted “present.” The vote follows last week’s defeat of a similar resolution to censure Mr. Issa.
The “privileged resolution” called on Congress to “strongly condemn the offensive and disrespectful manner” in which Mr. Issa, a California Republican, has conducted oversight committee business and would have required him to issue a formal apology from the well of the House.
“Chairman Issa’s abusive behavior on March 5 is part of a continuing pattern in which has routinely excluded members of the Committee from investigative meetings, has turned off Members’ microphones while they were questioning a witness, attempted to prevent witnesses from answering questions, and has provided information to the press before sharing it with Committee members,” the resolution read.
In the hearing, Mr. Issa had recalled former IRS employee Lois Lerner to try to make her testify about her role in the IRS’s targeting of tea party groups for special scrutiny.
After Ms. Lerner refused to answer 10 separate questions, citing her right against self-incrimination, Mr. Issa gaveled the hearing closed.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, asked to be recognized and Mr. Issa said he would entertain a question, but when Mr. Cummings began a statement criticizing the IRS investigation, Mr. Issa had the microphones cut and left the room.
Mr. Cummings has recently circulated a legal analysis and said it appears that Mr. Issa’s conduct during the hearing voided the possibility of holding Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress, which some in the GOP are weighing as an option.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Thursday that he and House counsel “reject the premise of Mr. Cummings’ letter.”
“I do not agree with that analysis in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Boehner said. “I’ve made clear on more than one occasion that Ms. Lerner should either testify or be held in contempt.”
In the March 12 letter to Mr. Boehner outlining the legal arguments, Mr. Cummings also wrote that Mr. Issa called him to apologize last Thursday and that he accepted the apology.