Friday, June 10, 2005
The Househearing, with the two sides accusing each other of being irresponsible and undemocratic, came as was urging Congress to renew those sections of the post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism law set to expire in September.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the panel, abruptly gaveled the meeting to an end and walked out, followed by other Republicans. Sensenbrenner declared that much of the testimony, which veered into debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was irrelevant.
"We are not besmirching the honor of the United States, we are trying to uphold it," he said.
Democrats asked for the hearing, the 11th the committee has held on the act since April, saying past hearings had been too slanted toward witnesses who supported the law. The four witnesses were from groups, including Amnesty International USA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, that have questioned the constitutionality of some aspects of the act, which allows law enforcement greater authority to investigate suspected terrorists.
Nadler said Sensenbrenner, one of the authors of the Patriot Act, was "rather rude, cutting everybody off in mid-sentence with an attitude of total hostility."
Tempers flared when Rep. Mike Pence (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., accused Amnesty International of endangering the lives of Americans in uniform by referring to the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a "gulag." Sensenbrenner didn't allow the Amnesty representative, Chip Pitts, to respond until Nadler raised a "point of decency."
Sensenbrenner's spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said the hearing had lasted two hours and "the chairman was very accommodating, giving members extra time."
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, speaking immediately after Sensenbrenner left, voiced dismay over the proceedings. "I'm troubled about what kind of lesson this gives" to the rest of the world, he told the Democrats remaining in the room.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement, said the hearing was an example of Republican abuse of power and she would ask House Speaker Dennis Hastert to order an apology from Sensenbrenner.
During an interview with Matt Lauer, Dr. Dean stated, "(T)hey (Republicans) are attacking immigrants: Two Republican congressmen, Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Tancredo, have incredible anti-immigrant legislation."
Chairman Sensenbrenner's full letter is below.
Dr. Howard Dean, Chairman
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St., SE
Washington, D.C. 20003
Dear Dr. Dean:
I was extremely disappointed to hear of your latest outrageous political assault this morning on The Today Show. You accused me by name of "attacking immigrants" and having "incredible anti- immigrant legislation," an apparent reference to the REAL ID legislation that enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate as well as by the Bush Administration. By implication, the 42 House Democrats who voted for the REAL ID Act and Senate Democrats like Senator Byrd who proved invaluable in moving this antiterrorism legislation through the Senate are also guilty of "attacking immigrants."
The REAL ID legislation was in response to the 9/11 Commission's work and recommendations regarding securing our borders and improving identity document standards. Are 9/11 Commission members also guilty of attacking immigrants? Are the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Americans who want us to get some control of our porous borders also guilty of attacking immigrants?
In recent days, your delusional outbursts have forced senior members of your own party to distance themselves from your comments. While I agree with your acknowledgment that you're "not very dignified," I sincerely hope you refrain from further personal attacks. These attacks are contrary to the passionate - but respectful - political debate the public deserves.
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR, Chairman
Source: US Newswire.
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