House Judiciary Democrats Fuming Over Hearing's Abrupt Adjournment

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, was out of line on Friday, when he adjourned a Judiciary Committee hearing on the USA Patriot Act by cutting off the microphones.

Pelosi is demanding an apology.

"As House Democratic Leader, I expect all Members to be treated by the majority with dignity and respect. I will ask Speaker Hastert to order Mr. Sensenbrenner to apologize for his behavior to the witnesses at the hearing [Friday], and to promise that this will never again happen," Pelosi said in a press release on Friday.

Pelosi called it an example of the "Republicans' abuse of power" reaching a new low.

"Chairman Sensenbrenner proved again today that he is afraid of ideas, and that Republicans will stop at nothing to silence Democrats. It is quite ironic that at a hearing on the impact of the Patriot Act on civil liberties, the Republicans attempted to suppress free speech," Pelosi said, adding that Democrats will not be silenced.

According to a report in the Boston Globe, Sensenbrenner, the Judiciary Committee chairman, gaveled the meeting to an end, then walked out of the room followed by other Republicans, leaving Democrats shouting into microphones that had been turned off. The newspaper called the hearing "raucous."

Sensenbrenner reportedly objected to the direction the hearing took, when witnesses picked by Democrats started denouncing the war in Iraq and the detention of foreign nationals at Guantanamo Bay.

"We ought to stick to the subject," Sensenbrenner told the committee. "The Patriot Act has nothing to do with Guantanamo Bay. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with enemy combatants. The Patriot Act has nothing to do with indefinite detentions," the Washington Post quoted him as saying.

The hearing lasted about two hours before Sensenbrenner ended it.

A spokesman was quoted as saying that Sensenbrenner "was very accommodating, giving Members extra time."

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