Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is clearly not a fan of opposition view points. At least not when they are in opposition to his own. Last night wouldn't be the first time he simply gavelled a meeting to a close in order to shut out the voices of those who disagreed with him.
At a Town Hall meeting in a library in Wauwatosa, WI, on Monday night, as TPM reports, Sensenbrenner suddenly adjourned the event after just 27 minutes as citizens expressed their disagreement with the speaker, state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R), concerning the state GOP's attempt to legislate away their freedom to collectively bargain as public employees.
After Sensenbrenner abruptly shut down the event --- something he has done before, but in the U.S. House --- the crowd on hand erupted into cries of "Shame! Shame! Shame!", echoing Democratic law makers in the state Assembly a week and a half ago after Republican members suddenly opened a vote on the "Budget Repair Bill" without warning at 1am, and closed it seconds later before nearly a third of the chamber had even had a chance to cast their vote.
Before we flash back to what Sensenbrenner did in 2005, here's what the end of the event looked like last night in Wauwatosa...
Sensenbrenner --- who had previously been a fan of rowdy Town Halls over the last year or two when corporate-manipulated "Tea Party" protesters were attempting to shout down Democratic elected officials over the so-called health care reform bill --- has a record of simply shutting down debate when he is not in favor of the viewpoints being expressed...
As long time readers of The BRAD BLOG may recall, in 2005, as then Chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Sensenbrenner infamously --- and unilaterally --- gavelled a hearing on the "PATRIOT Act" to a close when Democratic members of the committee had the temerity to call their own witnesses to testify under House Rule 11. He simply shut down the hearing and ordered House Judiciary Majority Counsel, Robert Tracci to shut off both the lights and the microphones against the objections of the committee's Democratic members as the C-SPAN cameras continued to role.
Here's what that scene looked like back in 2005 with Sensenbrenner presiding and then suddenly shutting down the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing...
After the apparently-unprecedented 2005 incident, a Democratic staffer on the Judiciary Committee expressed his amazement to The BRAD BLOG: "The irony, when we're debating the Patriot Act, of cutting off the debate and acting so anti-democratic when that's going on, is unbelievable!"
"In the committee with sole jurisdiction over civil rights and civil liberties, for the chairman to say, I don't want to hear about guys who are getting their testicles shocked, it's breathtaking arrogance, it's testimony to abuse of power and how this place is now run. They've become everything they said they deplored when they took over the house in 1994."
Then Minority leader Nancy Pelosi went on to issue a statement, as we reported in an update at the time, condemning Sensenbrenner's behavior, saying he "proved again today that he is afraid of ideas, and that Republicans will stop at nothing to silence Democrats."
"This is part of Republican abuses of power: to silence Democrats and the voice of the minority, to deny millions of Americans a voice in Congress," she said at the time. "Republicans are unwilling and unable to compete in the marketplace of ideas, so they have chosen to arbitrarily and capriciously abuse their power simply because they can."
For the ironic --- some might say hypocritical --- record, ThinkProgress has collected a number of now-ironic statements from Sensenbrenner as issued last year in regard to the protests at Town Hall meetings during the long debate over the health care reform bill...
– Sensenbrenner’s Communications Director Pointed To The Town Halls As Evidence People Were Against Health Reform: Queried by Politifact about his statement that Americans “emphatically” reject efforts to reform the U.S. health care system, his communications director Wendy Riemann pointed to the congressman’s town hall meetings: “At these meetings, the overwhelming majority of attendees (public from the 5th District) were opposed to the healthcare bill and/or supported the law’s repeal.” [1/16/10]
– Sensenbrenner Chided Democrats For Supposedly Ignoring Town Hall Protesters: In a weekly column, the congressman chided “President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi” for continuing to “ignore the voices of the majority of Americans whose outrage over a government takeover was expressed at town hall meetings across the country in August.” [2/23/2010]