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House Democrats try – and fail – again to pass resolution condemning Issa

Democrats and their iPads, iPhones, Laptops and old-school printouts of Rep. Darrel Issa.
On their iPads, iPhones, laptops and old-school printouts, Democrats display a photo of Rep. Darrel Issa cutting off  Rep. Elijah Cummings 's microphone.

In the latest step in what has been a sustained outrage, House Democrats once again tried and failed to pass a resolution condemning House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for his abrupt ending of a committee hearing last week.

The resolution, introduced by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), called on Issa to come to the House floor and apologize to Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-Md.) for cutting off his microphone during the hearing last week.

“Chairman Issa’s conduct in committee and his repeated attempts to silence Democrats is offensive and needs to be condemned,” Kildee said, in a statement.

As Kildee introduced the resolution, House Democrats stood around him holding up pictures showing Issa demanding that Cummings' microphone be cut off. But, ultimately, the resolution was defeated 217 to 173.

The ongoing controversy stems from a committee hearing last Wednesday on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting controversy, which quickly turned tense. When former IRS official Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right and declined to testify, Issa adjourned the meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The panel’s ranking member, Cummings (D-Md.), asked that the hearing be continued so he could speak, but Issa refused and had Cummings' microphone cut off. Republicans on the panel, led by Issa, then walked out of the room while the Maryland congressman continued to speak.

House Speaker John Boehner has defended Issa -- who later apologized to Cummings for how he handled the incident.

In a letter to Boehner today, Cummings said that Republicans already have botched any plans they might have for contempt actions against Lerner, who headed an IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status.

Lerner has repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right instead of testifying about the development of controversial screening methods that the IRS used for determining which nonprofit advocacy groups deserved extra scrutiny. An inspector general determined the efforts inappropriately targeted organizations based on their policy positions.

Cummings, citing opinions from two legal experts and “Supreme Court case law,” said Republicans cannot pursue contempt charges against Lerner because of how the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), abruptly adjourned a hearing with the former official last week.

But Boehner told reporters earlier today that he "rejects" the premise of that letter.

"I do not agree with that analysis in any way, shape or form," Boehner said. "I've made clear on more than one occasion that Ms. Lerner should either testify or be held in contempt."

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter covering law enforcement and justice for the Washington Post. He previously covered Congress and national politics.

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