House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday apologized to committee member Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) for accusing her of stating an “outright lie” during a February hearing about federal policy on contraception coverage.
The now-famous February hearing is the one where the first panel on the issue of contraception included no women, prompting Maloney to ask, “Where are the women?”
Republicans have argued that Democrats had their chance to invite women to the first panel, that there were women on the second panel, and that Democrats have been overplaying the idea that Republicans purposefully sought to block women from testifying.
Issa’s committee held the Feb. 16 hearing to discuss possible violations of First Amendment freedom of religion by way of the Obama administration rule that employee insurance plans carry contraception coverage even when the employer is a religious organization that does not believe in birth control. Maloney and other Democratic lawmakers had invited Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke to testify on the benefits of contraception coverage, but Issa did not allow her on the panel.
Fluke later testified to another House panel on Feb. 23. Her testimony triggered a vicious and sustained verbal attack upon her by radio personality Rush Limbaugh, which became national news.
On the House floor on Tuesday, offering a point of personal privilege, Maloney said her question was a valid one then, and still is today.
“I asked it as I sat there looking directly at an all-male panel, the panel that you see in this now-famous picture,” she said, standing next to a picture of the panel hearing. “It is a picture that I believe is worth a thousand words.
“And as I look at this picture again, my question is as pertinent and legitimate today as it was back then,” she added. “Look at this picture and tell me, where are the women?”
Maloney stressed that she did not take to the floor to revisit the contraception issue, but to call on all members to use more civil language.
“Today, I ask from Mr. Issa the same commitment I ask of myself: to always strive to hear from all sides of a debate without resorting to name-calling or attacks on the personal integrity of others,” she said in her prepared remarks.
Before Maloney’s floor speech, Issa apologized in a letter to Maloney that he wrote after the two talked in person about his interview.
“For years, we have collaborated as colleagues on numerous projects intended to create better government for the American people,” he wrote.
“In this context, I agree with your point and regret that my choice of words in an interview with a community newspaper did not reflect the collegial relationship and open communication you and I have long enjoyed.
“I appreciate your graciousness and agree with you that at times when we disagree there are better, more collegial ways to express such differences. I certainly value you as a colleague and look forward to continuing work on our many joint efforts