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Republicans boycott technology field hearing

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent a letter to the event’s Democratic hosts Thursday denying their request for the hearing.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent a letter to the event’s Democratic hosts Thursday denying their request for the hearing. // National Journal file photo

Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee won’t participate in a proposed field hearing May 11 to get feedback from Northern Virginia technology firms that are major government contractors, the committee’s chairman said Thursday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent a letter to the event’s Democratic hosts Thursday denying their request for the hearing and telling them committee rules forbade such events within 45 days of an election being held in the hosting district.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., requested the Fairfax County hearing along with the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Connolly is the ranking member of the panel’s Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.

Virginia will hold a number of primary elections on June 12, though Connolly is not facing a Democratic challenger for renomination in the commonwealth’s 11th Congressional District and is not on the ballot.

Connolly’s office didn’t immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on whether he and Cummings will proceed with the hearing as an unofficial minority event. That outcome looks likely, though. In their letter requesting the hearing, the congressmen told Issa: “Since we know these issues are of particular interest to you, we are writing to invite your participation. We would greatly prefer to hold this event as a bipartisan committee field hearing, although we understand if you are unavailable or decline to do so.”

Issa began his response by criticizing Connolly for not having attended any previous committee field hearings during the 112th Congress.

“I would also note that the last time the committee held a field hearing in the district of a Democratic member of this committee in Brooklyn, N.Y., the proceeding was interrupted by an election season-style protest from a rebranded ACORN group protesting my decision to call the hearing,” Issa wrote. “I hope you can appreciate and agree that while field hearings can play an important role in explaining Congress’ work to communities throughout the year, they are not intended to be used as venues for election season gimmicks.”

Cummings and Connolly have been sending out press releases about the planned event for several weeks. The purpose of the hearing is to “tap the extensive private sector [information technology] expertise within Northern Virginia and the National Capital Region,” Connolly said in a press release.

The letter to Issa also described the Obama administration’s plan to drastically reduce the number of federal data centers. Many federal data centers are located in suburban Virginia.

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