Democratic staff for the House oversight committee informed their GOP counterparts today that the majority has changed the locks on the committee's hearing room. While Republicans previously enjoyed their own key to the room, they will now have to request access from Democrats. This followed a bitter partisan argument in which Republicans refused to take down a video from their website that contradicted Dem explanations about a closed-door meeting on the Countrywide VIP loan scandal [see video below].VIDEO - "Hit the Road Jack":
As we reported last week, the committee was scheduled to meet on Thursday to mark up several minor pieces of legislation. Days before the meeting, California Republican Darrell Issa notified committee Chairman Edolphus Towns that Mr. Issa would call for a vote to subpoena Countrywide documents from Bank of America, which bought the failed subprime lender last year. Recall that, under the "Friends of Angelo" program, named for former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, Democratic Senators Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad received sweetheart deals on home mortgages. Mr. Issa wants to uncover the full story on Countrywide's effort to influence Washington policy makers.
Mr. Towns, a New York Democrat who also received mortgages from the unit that processed the VIP loans but claims he received no favors, has opposed such a subpoena. But can he count on his Democratic colleagues to vote it down? Perhaps Mr. Towns would rather not find out. Mr. Issa showed up for the scheduled 2 p.m. markup on Thursday hoping that a few Democrats would vote his way and allow the investigation to proceed. Then a strange thing happened: As Mr. Issa and the GOP members of the committee sat waiting for the meeting to begin, Democrats huddled in a back room without explanation. Thirty-five minutes later, the committee announced that the meeting had been postponed indefinitely.
A committee press release later claimed the postponement was "due to conflicts" with a markup occurring at the same time in the financial services committee. But Mr. Issa's staff videotaped several financial services members leaving the back-room gathering with Mr. Towns at the conclusion of the meeting. If members were there to confab with Chairman Towns, obviously they weren't at any finance committee markup -- suggesting the real "conflict" was between Democrats over whether to keep stonewalling the Countrywide matter. As for the Democrats' decision to change the locks today, Mr. Issa's spokesman Kurt Bardella says, "I guess we're getting some insight into what lengths they'll go to avoid addressing the Countrywide VIP issue...."
Oversight Democrats Run Away From Countrywide Bribe Program Vote: