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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Get a Room 

The trend-watchers among us have undoubtedly read elsewhere that last week's hearings on the Patriot Act came to an abrupt halt when the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Kotex heir James Sensenbrenner, killed the microphones of witnesses who were less than flattering in their assessments of the President's war on terror. (The witnesses, all called by Democrats, continued to testify, albeit without amplification and off the official record.) Today The Hill reported that uppity Democrats will henceforth be denied the use of House committee rooms:
In December, ranking Democrat John Conyers (Mich.) began holding “forums” — gatherings with all the trappings of official hearings — after Chairman [and Kotex heir -- S.] James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) refused to hold hearings on topics Conyers requested. The forums have been held in smaller committee rooms, often with C-SPAN coverage and formal witness lists.

In a sign of how far relationships on the committee have soured, majority staff recently announced a new policy to deny any request from a committee Democrat for the use of a committee hearing room.

Majority spokesman Jeff Lungren said the Republicans have given Democrats three opportunities to make clear that the forums are not official committee business. Nevertheless, Lungren said, in at least one case, members were addressing Conyers as “Mr. Chairman” . . . .

Sean McLaughlin, deputy chief of staff for Sensenbrenner, recently wrote to a minority staffer in more pointed language.

“I’m sitting here watching your ‘forum’ on C-SPAN,” McLaughlin wrote. “Just to let you know, it was your last. Don’t bother asking [for a room] again.”
The topic of "Chairman" Conyers's next hearing is, of course, the Downing Street Minutes, and our distinguished colleague John Aravosis of AmericaBlog informs us that, even though our Republican betters will not allow federal property to be sullied by reference to Dear Leader's patent mendacity in the runup to war, a venue suitable to the festivities has been engaged:
On Thursday June 16, 2005, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Wasserman Room at 430 S Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C., Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Congress Members will hold a hearing on the Downing Street Minutes and related evidence of efforts to cook the books on pre-war intelligence.

The hearings are being held at the Democratic National Committee because the Republicans controlling the House Judiciary Committee refused to permit the ranking Democratic Member to use a room on the Hill. Nonetheless, Republicans are welcome to attend.

Later on the same day at 5:00 p.m. ET in Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House, a large rally will support Congressman Conyers who plans to deliver to the White House a letter addressed to President Bush and signed by over 500,000 Americans and at least 94 Congress Members. The letter asks the President to respond to questions raised by the Downing Street Minutes. On May 1, 2005 a Sunday London Times article disclosed the details of a classified memo, also known as the Downing Street Minutes, recounting the minutes of a July 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair that describes an American President already committed to going to war in the summer of 2002, despite contrary assertions to the public and the Congress. The minutes also describe apparent efforts by the Administration to manipulate intelligence data to justify the war. The June 16th hearing will attempt to answer the serious constitutional questions raised by these revelations and will further investigate the Administration's actions in the lead up to war with new documents that further corroborate the Downing Street memo . . . .

WITNESSES: Joe Wilson, Former Ambassador and WMD Expert; Ray McGovern, 27-year CIA analyst who prepared regular Presidential briefings during the Reagan administration; Cindy Sheehan, mother of fallen American soldier; John Bonifaz, renowned constitutional lawyer and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.

SPEAKERS AT RALLY: will include Congressman Conyers and various other Congress Members, Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace, John Bonifaz of AfterDowningStreet.org, Ray McGovern former CIA analyst, Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of Progressive Democrats of America, Stephen Cleghorn of Military Families Speak Out, Kevin Zeese, Director of Democracy Rising, Reg Keys of Military Families Against the War (flying in from UK), William Rivers Pitt of Progressive Democrats of America, Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice.

The following additional speakers will take part if their schedules allow: Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
To learn more about rallies in your community, visit AfterDowningStreet.org.

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