Waxman: A mean man with the gavel

Republicans want a special prosecutor to investigate Fannie and Freddie. But the House Oversight chair just won't hear of it.


Andrew Leonard
October 23, 2008 11:49PM (UTC)

Judging by their interaction during today's House Oversight and Government Reform hearing investigating the failure of federal regulators to properly oversee Wall Street, Republican John L. Mica doesn't get along all that well with Democrat Henry Waxman, the committee chair.

All throughout the four hearings held so far by Waxman to explore various aspects of the financial crisis, Mica, who represents a district of northeast Florida that, it is safe to say, would fit the McCain campaign's definition of "real America," has striven mightily to direct the attention of all concerned to the role played by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. During Wednesday's hearing on credit rating agencies, Mica and other Republican committee members held up a sign reading "Nov. 20" -- a reference to the date of a hearing devoted to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mica has even proposed that Attorney General Michael Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor "to investigate the role Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their executives played in causing the nation's subprime mortgage meltdown."

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Never mind that there is plenty of evidence to disprove Mica's idée fixe: Key stat: 84 percent of all subprime loans were made by the private sector. This is politics, and House Republicans are going to beat this horse from here to eternity, no matter what Alan Greenspan says. But unfortunately for Mica, his party no longer controls the gavel, and his attempts to make every House Oversight hearing a Fannie and Freddie circus are trying Waxman's (generally nonexistent) patience.

On Thursday morning, after Waxman and ranking republican Tom Davis, R-Va., made their opening statements, Mica demanded attention. Here's the transcript:

MICA: Mr. Chairman?

WAXMAN: For what reason does the gentleman seek recognition?

MICA: I have a unanimous consent request.

WAXMAN: The gentleman will state his unanimous consent request.

MICA: Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit for the record and also distribute to the members a copy of a letter, which is signed by myself -- in fact, all members that are here today on our side of the aisle and other leaders in Congress -- requesting the attorney general of the United States appoint a general counsel, a special prosecutor. As you recall...

WAXMAN: The unanimous consent is to put in the document in the record.

MICA: Yes. If you recall, it's the opening ...

WAXMAN: Is there any objection?

MICA: ... hearing, I ...

WAXMAN: Excuse me, is there any objection? Because you're not recognized for a speech.

MICA: Well, I just wanted to explain that ...

WAXMAN: Your unanimous consent request ...

MICA: ... this hearing is being hijacked ...

WAXMAN: Well, then, I believe there is objection, and the gentleman is no longer recognized.

MICA: ... to not include, to not include coverage or ...

WAXMAN: We have before us now witnesses ...

MICA: ... discussion of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And after ...

WAXMAN: The gentleman will have to cease his comments ...

Power. Not such a pretty thing, when you're on the side that doesn't have it. As Democrats in the House remember all too well.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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