This morning, Democrats tore into House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) for preventing women from testifying before a hearing examining the Obama administration’s new regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide contraception coverage to their employees. Republicans oppose the administration’s rule and have sponsored legislation that would allow employers to limit the availability of birth control to women.
Ranking committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) had asked Issa to include a female witness at the hearing, but the Chairman refused, arguing that “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”
And so Cummings, along with the Democratic women on the panel, took their request to the hearing room, demanding that Issa consider the testimony of a female college student. But the California congressman insisted that the hearing should focus on the rules’ alleged infringement on “religious liberty,” not contraception coverage, and denied the request. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of his decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”
Watch a compilation of the heated exchange:
A picture of the witness table:
Issa also dismissed the Democrats’ woman witness as a “college student’ who does not “have the appropriate credentials” to testify before his committee.