Keystone Congress

This is your government at work, as reported in The Hill.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room to keep them from meeting when Democrats aren’t present.

Towns’ action came after repeated public ridicule from the leading Republican on the committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), over Towns’s failure to launch an investigation into Countrywide Mortgage’s reported sweetheart deals to VIPs.

For months Towns has refused Republican requests to subpoena records in the case. Last Thursday Committee Republicans, led by Issa, were poised to force an open vote on the subpoenas at a Committee mark-up meeting. The mark-up was abruptly canceled. Only Republicans showed up while Democrats chairs remained empty.

Republicans charged that Towns cancelled the meeting to avoid the subpoena vote. Democrats first claimed the mark-up was canceled due to a conflict with the Financial Services Committee. Later they said it was abandoned after a disagreement among Democratic members on whether to subpoena records on the mortgage industry’s political contributions to Republicans.

A GOP committee staffer captured video of Democrats leaving their separate meeting in private chambers after the mark-up was supposed to have begun. He spliced the video to other footage of the Democrats’ empty chairs at the hearing room, set it to the tune of “Hit the Road, Jack” and posted it on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s minority webpage, where it remained as of press time.

Towns’s staffers told Republicans they were not happy about the presence of the video camera in the hearing room when they were not present. Issa’s spokesman said the Democrats readily acknowledged to Republicans that they changed the locks in retaliation to the videotape of the Democrats’ absence from the business meeting even though committee rules allow meetings to be taped.

“It’s not surprising that they would choose to retaliate given the embarrassment we caused by catching them in a lie on tape,” said Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella. “If only they
would use their creative energy to do some actual oversight rather than resorting to immature tactics, but I guess we’re getting some insight into what lengths they’ll go to avoid addressing the Countrywide VIP issue.”

Towns’s office said in a statement the locks were changed on Republicans “because they don’t know how to behave.” As for the video the GOP made, Towns’s office pointed out: “The minority is using taxpayer dollars to make these campaign style videos.”