Rep. Elijah Cummings expressed his displeasure with House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz for his refusal to call Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to testify during this Wednesday's hearing on the Flint water crisis.
Cummings did thank Chaffetz for even holding the hearing in the first place, noting that there are there are a lot of Republican committee chairs that would have refused to even call a hearing at all. That didn't stop him from laying into the Republicans for their protecting the governor.
CUMMINGS: The problem is that today we are missing the most critical witness of all, the governor of the state of Michigan, Rick Snyder. He is not here. Gov. Snyder was the driving force behind Michigan's emergency manager law, which he signed in 2011, and invoked to take over the city of Flint from its local elected leaders.
The governor hand picked appointees to run the city and they decided to use water from the Flint River. He also left the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which failed to protect the people of Flint, according to the governor's own task force, in charge with investigating this crisis.
Obviously, Gov. Snyder should have to answer for his decisions. We asked the chairman to invite him today, but he would not. We asked the chairman to give us a date in the future for a hearing with Gov. Snyder, but he would not. We asked the chairman to send the same kind of document request to Gov. Snyder that he sent to the EPA, but he would not do that either.
We want answers from everybody, from the EPA, straight on down to the local officials. That's the way we get to the bottom of this crisis. The problem with this approach is that it undermines the credibility of Congress, our committee, and this investigation.
That is totally unacceptable to the people of Flint. It should be totally unacceptable to the people of this Congress and totally unacceptable to the people of the United States of America.
Chaffetz opened the hearing with a lot of grandstanding, and doing his best to spread the blame around to the locals and the EPA, which we've seen over and over again from the governor himself and his enablers in the corporate media.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Wednesday slammed federal and state officials who refused to testify on the Flint, Mich. water crisis, announcing subpoenas and vowing to "hunt down" those officials to compel them to appear before his panel.
The committee invited three officials — Miguel Del Toral, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water official, former EPA regional head Susan Hedman and former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley — to testify before the oversight panel on Wednesday. All three declined. Chaffetz said he accepted Del Toral’s decision not to appear, noting that he is helping lead on-the-ground response efforts in Flint right now. The EPA will turn over Del Toral’s emails by the end of the week.
But Hedman and Earley, he said, should have appeared.
Hedman was the regional director for the EPA when the water issues in Flint came to light, and she resigned her position last month. Chaffetz said he issued a subpoena on Wednesday for her deposition.
Earley, Michigan Gov. Rick Sndyer’s (R) former emergency manager for Flint, also declined to testify, citing his new role as emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools.
But Chaffetz said he, too, should have come shown up to testify. He issued a subpoena earlier this week, but his attorney refused to service it, telling the Detroit News that it came in too late at night on Tuesday to facilitate a trip to Washington.
So, Chaffetz said Wednesday, the committee would issue a new subpoena, and “we are calling on the U.S. Marshals to hunt him down and give him that subpoena.”
“Participation before this committee is not optional,” he said. “When you get invited to go before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, you are going to show up.” [...]
Members on both sides of the aisle have slammed the state and federal response to the crisis on Wednesday. Though neither were invited, Chaffetz acknowledged that some members had hoped to see EPA administrator Gina McCarthy or Sndyer testify before the committee.
Here's the latest from the House Democrats in response to Chaffetz: All Oversight Committee Democrats Invoke House Rules to Demand Testimony from Governor Snyder and Aides on Flint Water Crisis:
All Oversight Committee Democrats Invoke House Rules to Demand Testimony from Governor Snyder and Aides on Flint Water Crisis
Democrats Also Request Key Documents from Snyder and Other State Officials
Washington, D.C. (Feb. 3, 2016)—Today, all 18 Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz officially invoking their right under House rules to demand a minority day of hearings on the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The Democrats are seeking testimony from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder because Republicans declined multiple Democratic requests for the Committee to invite him to a hearing on this topic today. They also seek testimony from three key emergency managers that Snyder appointed to govern Flint since 2011: Edward Kurtz, Jerry Ambrose, and Darnell Earley.
“Although we have made multiple requests for you to invite the Governor, to date you have neither invited him to testify nor provided a timeframe by which you might do so,” the Members wrote. “Instead, it appears that you intend to try to limit our Committee’s investigation to the actions of the federal government. We believe we have a moral obligation to the people of Flint to examine this matter comprehensively, hearing from state officials as well as federal officials, and obtaining documents from all sources rather than only from the EPA.”
The Members also renewed their request that the Committee obtain relevant documents from the state – and not just the EPA – in order to conduct a comprehensive investigation of this crisis.
“We agree that the Committee must examine the actions of officials at the EPA, but in order to conduct a comprehensive investigation of this crisis, we must also examine the actions of the Governor and other state officials,” the Members wrote. “If we do not, the Committee’s credibility will be impaired and subjected to accusations of partisanship that will undermine our work.”