Boehner: Hearing witnesses should be treated with respect


House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said  Tuesday morning that witnesses compelled to testify at House hearings should be treated with respect -- a comment one might not think is needed from the leader of the House, but follows several recent heated exchanges between Obama administration officials and GOP lawmakers.

On Monday night, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions surrounding the missing e-mails of former agency official Lois Lerner. When Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, asked Koskinen to raise his right hand and take an oath before his testimony, Issa commanded him to raise his hand higher.

"You certainly have some explaining to do," Issa added.

Later, as Koskinen answered questions, Issa barked: "I have lost patience with you."

During a similarly testy exchange Friday with the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) insinuated that Koskinen was a liar.

House Democrats on both committees also expressed concerns with the situation at the IRS, but blasted Republicans for disrespecting Koskinen in an open hearing.

When asked about the hearings Tuesday morning, Boehner told reporters that "we invite people to come and provide testimony and, frankly, they should be treated with respect."

But he once again criticized President Obama for not ordering federal agencies to fully cooperate with ongoing investigations.

"When you look at the president, his own remarks when this IRS scandal unfolded almost a year ago, he said he would fully cooperate – he and his administration. They’ve not only haven’t fully cooperated, they haven’t done a damn thing to get to the truth of what really happened."

Boehner also faulted Koskinen and IRS officials for failing to disclose that several of Lerner's e-mails were missing from around the same time that the agency began scrutinizing the activities of several conservative and tea party groups that were seeking tax exempt status.

"I grew up in a bar. This doesn’t pass the straight-face test," Boehner said.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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