Democrats defend IT field hearing that Republicans plan to boycott

Dispute centers around election rule governing such events.

There’s nothing unethical about an information technology-focused event that Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plan to hold in Northern Virginia on May 11, the committee’s ranking member and the leading Democrat on its IT subcommittee said Thursday.

Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on April 26 declined to participate in the proposed field hearing, citing a committee rule forbidding such events within 45 days of an election being held in the host district.

Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Gerald Connolly, D-Va., responded Thursday that Issa was misapplying the rule because no committee members are on the ballot in the election at issue -- Virginia’s June 12 primary.

Connolly is running for reelection in Virginia’s nearby 11th District, but doesn’t face a Democratic challenger and isn’t on the primary ballot.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we consulted with staff on the House Administration Committee, who also raised no objections to our current plan to hold this event as a minority forum on this date,” the Congressmen said.

Cummings is the full committee’s ranking member and Connolly is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform. They said they support barring committee field hearings within 45 days of an election in which a committee member appears on the ballot and would even support extending the prohibition to 90 days.

Cummings and Connelly planned the event to gather feedback from suburban Washington IT firms on a plan to drastically reduce the number of federal data centers and other government technology initiatives, according to press releases.

Issa also complained in his letter that Connolly had not attended prior committee field hearings and the last field hearing in a Democratic committee members’ district was interrupted by protesters.

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