House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and her Republican counterpart Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) had a public blowup Thursday afternoon over her leadership of the panel, exposing tensions even as they’ve pledged to work together on major legislation.
The clash came at the end of a nearly three-and-a-half-hour hearing with top bank regulators. Republicans claim they were given little warning that the session was about to adjourn.
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As Waters tried to close the hearing, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said he had another question for the witnesses, as at least one Democrat also apparently did. But Waters proceeded.
“We made a commitment and we’re going to keep it,” the California Democrat said as Huizenga pushed back. “If a mistake was made and you were not notified, we will deal with that later.”
“This is a travesty the way you’ve handled this,” McHenry of North Carolina said, after Waters brushed aside his attempt to intervene and seek a parliamentary inquiry.
In followup interviews, Republicans said the incident was part of a pattern of the Waters team not keeping the GOP in the loop on committee activities and veering from House rules. That included not giving sufficient formal notice of Thursday’s hearing and allowing a documentary to be filmed during a different hearing this week, they said.
They pointed to her scolding of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last month when he tried to leave the committee after three hours of testimony to meet with a foreign dignitary. In addition, Republicans have complained about timely notice when Democrats issue subpoenas.
In a statement Thursday evening, Waters said she would keep trying to work across the aisle.
“I am committed to continuing to provide productive leadership, and I and my experienced and committed staff will continue to work with Mr. McHenry and his staff,” she said. “None of us have time for squabbling. The issues we are dealing with are much too important to be diverted into distraction and finger-pointing.”
To be sure, when the committee was in Republican control, Democrats also complained about unfair treatment.
But Waters and McHenry in some ways have tried to raise the level of bipartisanship at the committee since taking on their new leadership positions this year. They’re pledging to work together on long overdue legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, for example, and early in this session Democrats agreed to Republican changes to the committee’s oversight procedures — a major point of contention in previous years.
But Huizenga said Thursday’s incident was “amazing.”
“Actions speak louder than words,” he told POLITICO.
McHenry in an in interview cast blame on Waters staff — “malice or incompetence with the advice she’s been given.”
McHenry said he wanted to work on bipartisan legislation and that he wasn’t in Congress “to fight these stupid, frivolous fights that go on in other committees.”
“That hearing could have ended in a much better way with an understanding going forward that the rules will be followed,” he said.
“I don’t seek a bad relationship but I’ve been reluctantly dragged into fighting these legal and parliamentary issues because I firmly believe she’s been given bad advice.”