House Dems demand answers from Issa on travel request denial

House Democrats are criticizing Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) after the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reportedly disapproved travel for Democratic staff.

In a statement Wednesday, members of the Committee on House Administration reported being “alarmed” to learn that Issa disapproved travel for Democratic staff to attend a forum related to the committee’s oversight of federal drug policy.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) sent a letter to Issa Wednesday, seeking information on the review and approval process of Democratic expenses on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The action stems from an incident that occurred last Friday, according to the statement, in which Issa refused to authorize a routine request by Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and National Archives.

Davis planned to host a subcommittee forum on Drug Policy in Chicago, the statement added. Davis and his staff had been planning the event — which occurred October 17 — since the summer.

Democrats from the Committee on House Administration, which has oversight responsibilities for the use of House Committee funds, questioned why Democrats were not permitted “total control over their 1/3 of the OGR Committee budget as Chairman Issa promised in response to questions during the House of Representatives’ committee funding process earlier this year,” according to the statement.

That hearing was held March 1 in preparation for the House resolution authorizing committee budgets.

“Your rejection of an entirely appropriate request directly contradicts your response to the questionnaire you furnished the Committee on House Administration in preparation for the 112th Committee Funding hearing,” Democrats wrote.

“Your action regarding this forum continues a disturbing and troubling pattern of suppressing Minority views and participation during your stewardship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee,” the letter continued.

House Democrats contend that Davis’ request “was clearly and obviously related to his duties as the Ranking Member" of the subcommittee and are requesting that Issa respond to several questions by Oct. 25.

Among them, that Issa explain the process of planning travel by Minority staff and the amount of notice required for events, as well as the role and powers of the chairman in setting a committee agenda and defining official business.

House Democrats also asked that Issa provide information, including costs, on all instances of official travel by Majority staff in the 112th Congress when unaccompanied by Minority staff, according to the letter.

“This Committee must serve the interests of the institution, and Committee funds are available for all Members to conduct official business,” wrote Brady in Wednesday’s statement. “We cannot stand idly by as a lone Chairman undermines the rights of his fellow Members.”

“It's inexcusable that Chairman Issa is trying to restrict the minority's right to conduct committee business,” Lofgren added. “The Chairman's disregard for the rules, traditions and precedents of the House is troubling, and raises serious questions about his leadership and motives.”

Republicans responded swiftly.

“Chairman Issa spoke personally last week with Rep. Davis and offered to hold a full committee field hearing on drug addiction and treatment at a time and place amenable to Mr. Davis,” wrote Jeffrey Solsby, senior communications advisor for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in an email Wednesday.

“Regarding the district forum noted in the House Administration Committee’s letter and press release, Oversight Committee Democratic staff travel was not approved because the Chairman felt it was not appropriate to spend taxpayer resources on non-committee events,” he added.  “The forum requested was a personal office forum, not a committee matter.”

“Mr. Issa will respond to the House Administration letter,” Solsby said.

The Hill reported on a developing feud between Issa and Democrats last week.

Updaed at 7:37 p.m.