By Peter Schroeder - 05/25/11 09:57 PM EDT
The latest partisan fight between backers of Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and Republicans on the House Oversight Committee dragged into a second day Wednesday, after a scheduling disagreement exploded into a lengthy argument at a Tuesday hearing.
Warren backers filled the Facebook page of Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who accused Warren of lying about a scheduling agreement at the hearing, with attacks and criticism. Meanwhile, Republicans on the committee also took to the social networking site to post emails between staffers they say is proof they are in the right.
Republicans and Warren have long been opposed to one another, but the scheduling dispute is serving as the latest battleground over the CFPB.
Warren tried to leave the hearing at 2:15 as the panel recessed for votes, saying she had another meeting. But McHenry tried to make her stay, saying two more GOP members still had questions to ask. He said that his staff had said they would try to get her out on time, but that they could not make any promises. Warren maintained the agreement was that she could leave at that time.
Now, committee Republicans are citing copies of emails between one of their staffers and a Treasury staffer — where the CFPB is currently housed — as proof that Warren knew there was no guarantee she could leave at a specific time.
On their Facebook page, GOP members posted a copy of the exchange — the identities of the exact staffers involved were redacted.
In one of the emails, a Republican staffer says, "I can't guarantee an exit time except to understand the hard stop at 3:30. I would expect that the earlier Prof. Warren can start, the more likely it is that she will not be asked to stay passed [sic] votes."
Committee Republicans said in a message accompanying the emails that Warren "is the latest example of Obama Admin arrogance: she tried to bail on a hearing, claiming she didn't know she'd have to stay to answer questions. Here's proof she did, but her boots kept right on walkin' all over your right to know. It's our job to hold gov't accountable, but the Obama White House doesn't think you deserve answers."
The CFPB contends that there was a verbal agreement with committee staff on the timing, and points to a follow-up email a CFPB staffer sent to the committee that morning that mentions the arrangement. A spokesperson for the committee denies such an arrangement existed.
The new GOP front comes as Warren backers swarmed McHenry's Facebook page Tuesday to criticize him for his conduct at the hearing. The standoff between Warren and McHenry over the length of her testimony became heated, culminating in McHenry accusing her of lying about the arrangement.
The spat came at the end of a hearing that saw many tense exchanges between Warren and Republicans. In particular, McHenry accused her of misleading Congress in prior testimony about the role the CFPB was playing in settlement talks with mortgage servicers over documentation problems.
“I’m not trying to cause you problems, Ms. Warren,” McHenry said.
“Congressman, you are causing problems,” she responded. “We had an agreement. ... I committed to you based on representations of your staff.”
“You had no agreement,” responded McHenry.
“We had an agreement,” she rebutted.
“You’re making this up, Ms. Warren,” said McHenry.
Warren was eventually allowed to leave, after she agreed to answer the remaining questions in writing.
Six Democrats, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the full committee, sent a letter to McHenry Wednesday demanding he apologize for his behavior.
treatment of Professor Warren undermines the integrity of our committee and
offends the standards of the House of Representatives," the letter reads.
They said he should
apologize for his "inappropriate and false accusations" not just to
Warren, but to his fellow subcommittee members for "denigrating the
proceedings and potentially compromising our ability to conduct our important work in the future."
Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the committee, responded to the letter by blasting Democrats on the committee.
Republicans “are sick and tired of the arrogance and disdain for oversight,” he said. “They’re constantly trying to obstruct the work of this committee.”
—This post updated at 6:30 pm.