Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing “to assess the impact of the healthcare mandate rule on freedom of religion,” and see whether the executive branch of government had overreached its constitutional authority. Or to put it as Rush Limbaugh did: “[The hearing] was about whether the regime has the authority to mandate that anybody provide contraception to their employees, either free or for charge.”
The witnesses invited to testify included various members of the clergy as well as Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. And although these parameters were clearly set out before hand–or perhaps because these parameters were set out before hand–Democrats tried to turn the hearing into a circus. The last thing they wanted was for attention to be drawn to the blatant disregard Obama’s big government has for freedom (and the constitution).
Thus, once the hearing was underway, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) asked House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) if “a minority female could testify [about contraception] at the hearing” just so Issa would say “no” and the Democrats could grandstand. And sure enough, Issa said “no”–because the hearing wasn’t about contraception–and sure enough, the Democrats didn’t pass up their chance to grandstand. Thereafter, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), along with Congressman Cummings, walked out of the hearing.
And they had their talking points ready. Especially Norton, who justified her exit by saying the hearing “was being run like an autocratic regime.” (Ironically, the goal of the hearing was to figure out if the Obama administration was acting like an autocratic regime, but I guess that point’s lost on Norton.)
Anyway, Democrats who stayed in the hearing also filed their complaints. Especially Gerald Connolly (D-VA), who said of the hearing, “I believe today’s hearing is a sham.” And who said to the clergy who attended it, “You are being used for a political agenda.” (You may remember Connolly as the congressman who greeted Holder during the Feb. 2nd Fast and Furious hearings by saying, “Thank you for being here and showing such dignity and honor in the face of some who are suggesting that you are other [than dignified and honorable].”
The bottom line: I wouldn’t put much stock in what Connolly says. Nor would I worry too much about the Democrats who decided to take their toys and go home instead of participating in the hearing like adults who had been elected to congress. They knew that the mandate Obama issued couldn’t stand the constitutional scrutiny Issa wanted to subject it to, so they had disrupt things as best they could.
In other words, they had to turn the hearing into a debate about contraception, because they knew they would lose a debate about government overreach.