It's not often members of Congress publicly condemn their colleagues' actions. But it happened Thursday on the House floor when Democrats angrily went after Southern California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.
The incident was ignited at Wednesday's Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, chaired by Issa. The hearing featured one witness: IRS official Lois Lerner. But she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to answer questions. At that point, Issa moved to end the hearing without giving the top Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the customary opportunity to give his own opening statement.
It went downhill from there. Cummings told Issa he "cannot run a committee like this." Issa responded by cutting off Cummings' microphone. He then dismissed Lerner and the audience, telling committee staffers to "close it down."
Outraged Democrats introduced a resolution calling on the House to "strongly" condemn the "offensive and disrespectful manner in which Chairman Darrell E. Issa conducted the hearing."
The resolution by Ohio Democrat Marcia Fudge accused Issa of "abusive behavior" that is a "continuing pattern." Issa was accused of breaking House rules that require members to "behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”
The resolution was defeated along party lines, 211-186.
L.A. Democrat Tony Cardenas, who serves on the Oversight Committee but was not at Wednesday's meeting, called the incident "typical" Issa. Cardenas said the chairman often cuts off Democratic members. "He's got a temper and he wears it on his sleeve."
Congresswoman Fudge asked House Speaker John Boehner to take away Issa's chairmanship. The Speaker came to Issa's defense, saying he's done an "effective job as chairman" and was "within his rights to adjourn the hearing when he did."
L.A. Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass said even though the House resolution was defeated, the vote was important to make a point. Issa's behavior, she said, was "so objectionable, so unacceptable [that] just like with a small child," it opens the door to further bad behavior by other members.
UPDATE: Darrell Issa says he apologized.
In an interview late Thursday with the San Diego Union Tribune, Issa said he spoke to Congressman Cummings about how they could "do a better job going forward." That included agreeing to co-sponsor a piece of whistle blower legislation by Cummings.
Issa said he "should have been much more sensitive to the mood of what was going on and I take responsibility." Video of Issa holding down the button cutting off Cummings' microphone went viral. Issa said, in hindsight, he should have "offered to reopen the hearing" to allow Cummings to make his statement.
Issa will step down as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at the end of this year. House GOP rules impose term limits with few exceptions.