Congressional Second Graders

Changing the locks usually signals a bad break-up.

If that is what it means on Capitol Hill, it is a bad sign for bipartisanship.
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, changed the locks on the committee’s main chamber, a decision made without the Republican members of the committee. The Republicans were later informed that the Democrats would control access to the room by holding the only set of keys.

When questioned about his actions, Towns said it was a response to a video entitled “Hit the Road Jack: Oversight Democrats Run Away From Countrywide Bribe Program Vote” that was posted on YouTube and linked on Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) Twitter feed.

This is the state of U.S. politics, folks.

The House oversight committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday, Oct. 15 for a mark-up meeting also expected to include a call to vote. Towns wanted to subpoena Countrywide Financial documents from Bank of America. (Bank of America bought Countrywide last year after it had been one of the biggest mortgage bankers to collapse in the housing crisis.) Issa has been investigating the connections between Countrywide’s VIP loan program and Washington legislators, who may have been influenced by Countrywide deals, especially Connecticut Dem Sen. Chris Dodd, who got a “special friend” loan from Countrywide.

At meeting time last Thursday, however, the Republicans showed up while the chairs of the Democrat members remained empty (shown in the video). The original excuse given was a schedule conflict with another committee meeting. Complicating that explanation, however, was the video taped by Issa staff members of Democratic members of the committee exiting a private meeting in a separate chamber after the committee meeting had been scheduled to start.

Towns’ response to the humorous video, which is set to music and narrated with text, was to accuse the Republicans of bad behavior.

Issa’s office retaliated by calling the lock-changing maneuver “juvenile.” Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella said the video will remain posted on the official YouTube channel.

"If only they would use their creative energy to do some actual oversight and maybe hold a hearing rather than resorting to immature tactics,” he said.

The committee was scheduled to meet again today, but according to Bardella, Democrats have cancelled the hearing.

Meanwhile, the Republican Study Committee is channeling their creativity toward something useful by issuing Waste Action Alerts. The RSC Sunset Caucus, launched June 17, highlights wasteful spending, “working to sunset programs that taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for,” according to their mission statement. The first Action Alert highlights legislation introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R.-Utah) to end mohair subsidies.

Mohair: the silky fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat; possibly used to make expensive sweaters to keep congressmen warm during the winter, although some people find it itchy.

Regardless, Chaffetz and other members have seen fit to question the importance of mohair as part of the federal budget. According to the Action Alert issued by the RSC, the subsidies cost about $1 million per year. Price support for wool and mohair has existed since 1947, according to the Congressional Research Service. At the time, military uniforms were made of a wool and mohair blend.

The proposed bill, which would amend the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture. Time will tell whether mohair will spin into bipartisan agreement or heated debate, but hopefully at least Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D.-Minn.) will not see fit to change the locks on the committee chamber in order to keep the goats in.