"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Nonsensenbrenner 

Although it's difficult to choose just one Republican for the coveted title of "Biggest Jerk in Congress," James Sensenbrenner currently has the inside track. You may recall that Sensenbrenner was the guy who thought it would be funny to misrepresent a series of proposed Democratic amendments to the generally odious Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act as efforts to protect sexual predators. That was disgusting, but now he's truly outdone himself:
Now we find ourselves, barely a month later, with Chairman Sensenbrenner once again out of control, flouting House rules, and robbing the minority of its right to be heard. The hearing he shut down was properly demanded under Rule XI, clause 2(j)(1) -- demanded because he had refused otherwise to permit Committee Democrats to call their own witnesses on the PATRIOT Act. Reminded that the Rules of the House entitle the minority to that right, he called the hearing for 8:30 am on Friday -- a day when the House was out of session and most other Members had returned home to their districts. So, with barely a half day's notice, witnesses were flown in from all across the country, Judiciary Committee Democrats rejiggered their schedules, and all were told by the Chairman that the hearing would be cancelled if anyone were late.

Running an extraordinarily tight ship, Sensenbrenner held close (after his own fashion) to the five minute rule. Normally, Members are given five minutes in which to pose questions to witnesses and receive their answers. Commonly, so long as they are mindful of time restrictions, witnesses are permitted to complete their answers even if they run over on time. But Sensenbrenner was having none of it that morning. Witnesses were gaveled down and cut off in mid-sentence, at five minutes on the dot. In one case, a Republican Member reportedly posed a five minute "question" to a witness, the representative of Amnesty International, which consisted of little more than a rant and berating of the witness and the organization he represented. At the end of the five minute tirade, time being up, Sensenbrenner moved on, refusing all requests that he be permitted to reply, until Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) was able to needle him into allowing a brief response.

In the end, though, Sensenbrenner had his way. In this video of the end of the hearing, available from Dembloggers.com, the Chairman is seen melting down, gaveling the hearing to a close unilaterally (as opposed to say, making a motion to adjourn in regular order), and storming out. In the minutes that followed, the video documents that Democrats soldiered on, though Committee staff turned off the microphones, and even allegedly attempted to insist that C-SPAN camera crews be removed. Perhaps even more informative were the interviews conducted by Air America Radio host Randi Rhodes with Judiciary Committee Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Jerry Nadler, audio of which is available here. In these interviews, the Members give us details not visible on the C-SPAN video. I recommend giving them a listen. And so, in his attempt to bury objections to the PATRIOT Act with an 8:30 hearing on a Friday, Sensenbrenner in fact created a sensation.

What a tool. If Sensenbrenner keeps this up, he may soon replace that other famous Republican from Wisconsin as first in Ann Coulter's heart.

 

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