Saturday, June 11, 2005

Why Do They Hate Our Freedoms?

Interesting goings-on going on today in Washington as a Patriot Act hearing got a little out of hand. According to ABC News...

The Republican chairman walked off with the gavel, leaving Democrats shouting into turned-off microphones at a raucous hearing Friday on the Patriot Act.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing, with the two sides accusing each other of being irresponsible and undemocratic, came as President Bush 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...

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, 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."

Dem Bloggers has two videos from the hearing, but they are having server problems and it takes a while to download the videos.

Sensenbrenner is one of those Republicans that hates us for our freedoms. In addition to co-authoring the Patriot Act, he is the creator of the Real ID act, which moves us one step closer to having a national identity card. The measure, which ostensibly was designed to combat illegal immigration, requires an electronically readable, government approved identity card. The Department of Homeland Security has the power to set standards and decide if your state's drivers license meets those requirements. You will have to have a federally approved ID card to travel on a plane, open a bank account or use most government services, including collecting Social Security payments. The bill also puts more responsibility on you to prove that you are who you say you are, and more responsibility on the states to verify all of your documentation, but is an unfunded mandate that does not provide any funds to the states to meet these responsibilities. If you thought the lines were long at the DMV before, just wait until this bill goes into effect.

Rather than put this turkey of a bill to a straight up or down vote, which Republicans claim to be all gung-ho about, they tacked it onto the last Iraq War spending bill, ensuring its passage.
Meanwhile, more and more states and communities are rebelling against the Patriot Act. Colorado is the latest. They just passed a bipartisan resolution calling on Congress to bring the Patriot Act into compliance with the Constitution. They join 382 communities and six other states that have issued such resolutions. The other states are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Idaho and Vermont, all great bastions of liberalism. No, wait a minute, I think most of these are red states, aren't they?

Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act will expire in September unless Congress acts to reauthorize them.

Update: The Dembloggers videos are loading and playing much better now. The first video shows Sensenbrenner's closing remarks and includes him refusing to yield and gaveling the meeting to a close after Rep. Jerry Nadler called for a point of order, a violation of House parliamentary rules. The second video shows some of the debate that occurred after the meeting was gaveled to a close. C-Span has video of the full hearing (two hours) on its website. It's labeled "House Hearing on Patriot Act Reauthorization (06/10/2005)."


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