"Shouting into Turned-Off Microphones"

I give credit to Representative Sensenbrenner today, not for walking off with gavel in hand, but for sticking around for as long as he did.

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.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., protested, raising his voice as his microphone went off, came back on, and went off again.

“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.

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.”

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