House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Wednesday said he would begin contempt proceedings against the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to give the committee documents it started asking for six months ago.
Last November, Issa subpoenaed the EPA for various emails and documents that Republicans suspect will show that the White House interfered with congressional requests for information.
In a Wednesday morning hearing, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she was still not ready to hand over the documents Issa is seeking. McCarty indicated that EPA staff was still negotiating with committee staff and trying to work with the request for papers, but Issa said that answer wasn’t good enough after more than six months.
“Could you imagine if I just went ahead and set up a coal energy plant without a permit, started burning raw coal to produce electricity, and then told you for month after month after month that I look forward to working with you?” Issa said.
“I am informing you today that it is my intention to hold the Environmental Protection Agency in contempt and to schedule a business meeting to do so at the first business day available to this committee, which will be after next week.”
McCarthy said several times that EPA staff had shown committee staff one email “in camera,” or in private, which she said shows there was no coordination between the White House and EPA about what documents to give to Congress. McCarthy said this work is similar to work that has been done in the past between Congress and the EPA.
But Issa shot down that idea as well, and said the soft negotiations taking place reflect the poor job of oversight that Democrats did when they controlled Congress.
“This is my watch, this is my time,” Issa said. “Elections have consequences. You have not complied with the subpoena. I am telling you, the time to comply is now.”
Issa also warned repeatedly that the time for negotiations is over.
“There is no negotiation. Negotiation time has expired long time,” he said. “It is contemptible for months to pass and have you say that you’re negotiating. That in-camera offer quite frankly was insufficient.”
Issa and other Republicans have pressed the EPA for the last several months on oversight matters such as the EPA official who pretended to be a CIA agent, and bilked the agency of thousands of dollars. McCarty said Wednesday that there is an ongoing criminal investigation against this official, John Beale, and said EPA is still trying to limit the retirement benefits of that official.
Republicans have also investigated an EPA official who received a discount for a new Mercedes from a lobbyist, and an EPA official who watched two to six hours of pornography on the job. In May, Deputy EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe testified about the pornography case.