Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) resorted to this petty tactic because the Republican leadership, particularly Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has held him Towns up for ridicule for his refusal to investigate Countrywide Mortgage’s “sweetheart deals” with politicians, Democrats and Republicans.
Could it possibly be that Towns has something to hide? CBS certainly thinks so:
Towns has dug in his heels, refusing requests to subpoena records. Then, last week when the Republicans were ready to force an open vote on the subpoenas, the Dems pulled another trick: they cancelled the meeting but failed to tell the Republicans about it:
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.
You can only use delaying tactics so far before they turn around and bite you. An enterprising GOP member of the committee, knowing darn well that they were meeting secretly, videotaped them leaving their “Democrats Only” confab:
- - - - - - - - -
So what did the grown-ups on the Democrat side do in retaliation for this bit of transparency? They had the locks changed on the meeting room doors. No Republican cooties allowed without their Democrat chaperones now. Only Democrats have keys:
Towns’ 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.
Republican Issa’s spokesman said:
“It’s not surprising that they would choose to retaliate given the embarrassment we caused by catching them in a lie on tape…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.”
Follow this tennis match back and forth:
From the Democrats:
Towns’ 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’ office pointed out: “The minority is using taxpayer dollars to make these campaign style videos.”
The Republicans return the easy lob back over the net:
“It’s also those same taxpayer dollars that paid for them to sit in a room while they came up with an excuse to cancel the mark-up -- what exactly do they do all day?”
The Hill explains:
Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America, was reported to have given VIP loans and treatment to lawmakers and officials at the federal and local level who were in a position to influence policy affecting the mortgage giant. Issa has repeatedly reminded Committee Democrats that Bank of America officials had said they would turn over records on the VIP program - but only in response to a subpoena.
Towns, who received a mortgage loan from Countrywide but insists he was not part of the VIP program, has said he declined to launch an investigation because he does not want to interfere with an ongoing Justice Department probe into the matter.
The Hill, having a long institutional memory, also cites a similar trick the Republicans pulled back in 2003. These politicians never seem to move beyond the tactics of third graders at recess.
Lord, please send us some grown-up politicians while we still have a country left.