No politician better embodies the zealotry of the 109th Congress than Sensenbrenner, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. His solution to hot-button issues is always the same: Lock 'em up. Sensenbrenner has proposed legislation that would turn 12 million undocumented immigrants into felons, subject any adult selling a joint to a teenager to at least ten years in prison, and incarcerate college kids for failing to narc on their hallmates. He also wants to prosecute anyone who utters an obscenity on the air. Big fines just aren't tough enough for indecent broadcasts: As Sensenbrenner told a group of cable executives last year, "I'd prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process."Number one is one of our FLIB neighbors, Denny Hastert, in part because of the way he abused his earmarking authority to line his pockets. Which raises a question for some of my regular commenters here who enjoy smearing Harry Reid for such innocuous things as forming an LLC with a friend. Media Matters documented yesterday the way the media seems to have covered up for Hastert and his deal, though he clearly violated ethical guidelines (if not the law) to a far greater extent than Harry Reid ever did. New Rule: You want to criticize Reid? First call out the bigger sinner in your own party.
In addition to his assault on free speech, Sensenbrenner has also played a major role in curtailing civil liberties. He was the lead House sponsor of the Patriot Act, which gives the government broad powers to spy on Americans. Although the measure was intended to stop terrorists, Sensenbrenner insists it should also be used in routine criminal cases.
Sensenbrenner's iron-fisted rule of the judiciary committee was on nationwide display last year during a televised debate over reauthorization of the Patriot Act. When Democrats began discussing the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, the chairman abruptly ended the meeting and cut off their microphones. When Democrats refused to leave the room, Sensenbrenner's staff pulled the plug on C-Span and turned out the lights. As The Daily Show host Jon Stewart put it, "He literally took his gavel and went home." [. . .]
He also enjoys the perks of office: No congressman has racked up more frequent-flier miles on junkets sponsored by corporate lobbyists. While he was enjoying the good life last year, Sensenbrenner took time out to make life tougher on working families, winning approval for a bill that makes it harder for Americans overwhelmed by debt to declare bankruptcy. The congressman refused to consider an exemption from the bill's restrictions for victims of Hurricane Katrina -- and even voted against the aid package designed to help them recover from the disaster.
Two more links: Read the Rolling Stone cover story on this Congress and what makes it so bad, and then go show Bryan Kennedy, Sensenbrenner's opponent, some love.