A top White House political aide's refusal to testify twice before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee prompted a vote Friday to rebuke the Obama administration.
The panel voted strictly along party lines with the Republicans backing committee Chairman Darrell Issa of California. The vote was 19-14 to reject the administration's claims that David Simas, head of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, is immune from congressional subpoena, The Hill reported.
The White House rationale prevents "committee members and the American people an opportunity to hear from the head of an office that has, under several previous administrations, misused public resources for political purposes," Issa said, according to The Hill.
A video of the rebuke was posted by Roll Call
The probe centers on potential violations of the Hatch Act. Issa announced the investigation and subpoena
in February, shortly after the White House announced the office would be reopened and renamed after a three-year closure.
Issa acknowledged there's no evidence of any wrongdoing by Simas or his office.
"We are accusing neither the president nor this four-person office of any wrongdoing," Issa said.
The Hill reported in a letter to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's ranking member, that U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said Thursday she has "not received any allegations that Assistant to the President David Simas or anyone in [the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach] has violated the Hatch Act."
Issa, however, defended the subpoena because of a "past history" of abuse in the office.
"Inherently, when an office is closed … and then reopened, … the most important oversight we can do is say, 'In the past this didn't work properly; how do we know it will work properly going forward?'" Issa asked.
After Friday's vote, Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas of California mocked Issa's probes.
"Voting by members has reached the limit of its usefulness," a statement from Cardenas said, The Hill reported. "We are picking winners and losers, when it is clearly obvious that witches can only be found by dunking them in water. If they float they're a witch. If they don't, installing a pool will allow us to retrieve the non-witch before he or she drowns."
The pool, Cardenas chided, could be called the "Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy Memorial Truth Pond."
Issa said he'll continue to give Simas an opportunity to testify as the panel enforces its subpoena.
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