When Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, convened a hearing Thursday on religious freedom and the mandate that health insurers cover contraception, he ignited a firestorm of protest before he even started.
The first of two panels he assembled was all male — something that a Democratic congresswoman on the committee noted immediately and not favorably, given thatwomen's healthwas at the heart of what was being discussed. A photo of the panel of clergymen at a table before the committee went viral on Facebook.
The Democrats who made political hay of Issa's choice of witnesses were right; surely it says something troubling that the committee didn't bother to find a single woman to testify on its first panel. (There were two on the second.) But it is at least as troubling that there was no one at all — male or female, on either panel — called to testify in support of the Obama administration's proposed mandate.
Of course Issa opposes the mandate; he's a Republican, and he's entitled to his position. As committee chairman, he has some leeway about what issues he wants to pursue and whom he wants to hear from. But the House oversight committee is not his personal plaything, and its hearings are funded by taxpayer dollars. Shouldn't he make at least a token effort to show that he's not using the committee for purely partisan purposes? Shouldn't he at least pretend that he's trying to grapple with a public policy conundrum — a conflict between religious liberty and healthcare policy — rather than merely taking pot shots at Democrats? Shouldn't any member of Congress be interested in hearing all sides of an issue?