By Richard Simon
8:05 PM EST, March 7, 2014
WASHINGTON — Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, has apologized to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings for adjourning a hearing while the panel's top Democrat was speaking.
Apology accepted, Cummings said after receiving a call from the Vista, Calif., congressman Thursday night.
Cummings, of Maryland, added in a statement that he hopes that as the House's top investigative committee moves forward, it "will seek resolution rather than unnecessary conflict."
That could be a stretch given the history of tension between Issa and Cummings, which reached a new low during a Wednesday hearing in which a former Internal Revenue Service official invoked her 5th Amendment right not to testify about the agency's targeting of conservative groups.
Issa signaled to his staff, hand across his neck, to turn off the microphone while Cummings was speaking, drawing accusations that Issa was trampling on the rights of the minority party and prompting a Democratic resolution condemning his "abusive behavior." The Republican-controlled House tabled the resolution on a party-line vote.
Issa began his investigation after an audit found that IRS staff in Cincinnati had inappropriately flagged conservative organizations, pulling aside applications with keywords such as "tea party" and policy objectives such as "educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights." The organizations were seeking recognition as tax-exempt social welfare groups, which are permitted to do a limited amount of political activity as long as it is not their primary purpose.
Democrats note that the IRS flagged progressive groups too. They say the investigation has turned up no evidence that the White House was behind the targeting of conservative groups.
Earlier Thursday, before Issa issued his apology, he told Fox News' Megyn Kelly that Cummings had thrown a "hissy fit" at the committee meeting.
"I give him lots of chances to talk," Issa said. "Yes, he did irritate me. Because he said he wanted to ask a question and then he went into this diatribe accusing me of somehow being on a witch hunt.… If I had to do it over again, I probably would have sat there for a very long time, let him say a lot of things and then walked away."
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