Judiciary GOP pulls the plug on Conyers 'forums'

If the Financial Services Committee is the best in the House when it comes to bipartisan comity, then the Judiciary Committee may well be the worst. In December, ranking Democrat John Conyers (Mich.) began holding “forums” — gatherings with all the trappings of official hearings — after Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) refused to hold hearings on topics Conyers requested.

If the Financial Services Committee is the best in the House when it comes to bipartisan comity, then the Judiciary Committee may well be the worst.

In December, ranking Democrat John Conyers (Mich.) began holding “forums” — gatherings with all the trappings of official hearings — after Chairman 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.”

“They were unwilling or unable to make those changes,” Lungren said. “At this point, if they want to hold these forums, they’ll have to find some other place to do it.”

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.”

A committee source said committee Democrats are still planning to hold the forums when they find other available space.

Ford: Iraq could use an NAACP chapter

After spending the Memorial Day weekend in Iraq, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) thinks he may have a strategy to end the war in that country: Send in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Ford, who is running for the Senate seat of retiring Majority Leader Bill Frist (R), told an NAACP dinner in Knoxville on Friday night that “Iraq could use an NAACP chapter.”

Ford explained that the NAACP’s ability to work together for a common goal could be the missing link in bringing the two-year-old conflict to an end, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“Even with our military sacrificing their lives over there, they cannot solve this problem alone,” he said.

Hill docs readying for Capitol triage

“I was thinking that we doctors in Congress need to offer our services in the event of a major catastrophe, and I was thinking that as I was fleeing the Capitol down D Street,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). “We were just no help to anybody.”

While many have criticized the Capitol evacuation May 12 as disorganized or even unnecessary, Gingrey found that the experience validated an idea he had been working on for a while.

Over the past two months, Gingrey and Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) have held two meetings to discuss the formation of the Congressional Medical and Dental Doctors Caucus. The two will co-chair the nascent organization.

At a meeting Thursday with John Eisold, the attending physician to Congress, the caucus discussed the logistics of an emergency plan that would allow the 13 doctor/dentists in the House and two in the Senate to aid emergency workers.

Gingrey said he hopes to develop protocol, a communication system and various meeting points for the doctors, depending on the nature of the catastrophe. They are also considering reviewing basic skills such as CPR and how to use a defibrillator, as well as how to perform an emergency tracheotomy.

“Some people are further from practice than others, and base skills are easy to refresh,” he said. Gingrey estimates that so far the caucus has about 60 percent participation.

Though the May 12 evacuation gave Gingrey and Snyder the impetus to further organize the caucus and make more specific plans, Gingrey had been giving the concept some thought for a long time.

“Every once and again I think about what would happen if good old Joe is discussing his or her amendment and collapses,” Gingrey said. “Am I going to be up to snuff to give him a fighting chance at life? I want to be prepared.”

Weldon trades accusations with CIA over book

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