The Republicans in U.S. Senate are acting like angry and spoiled brats since they lost the vote to provide healthcare to Americans and are dismissing the needs of the country by conducting childish parliamentary tricks to stop the business of the Senate to harrass the Democrats.
Today (March 24, 2010) I was attending a U.S. Senate Veterans Committee hearing on homeless vets when at 11am, Committee chair Senator Akaka abruptly said that the hearing must end immediately as one member of the "minority" party had invoked a parliamentary prerogative to suspend the day's hearings.
I was amazed and upset that the important hearing on homeless veterans could be so easily ended. I stood up in the hearing and said I was a veteran and that I was outraged that one disgruntled Senator could halt the hearings of the Senate.
I asked the name of the Senator who had invoked the parliamentary termination of Senate hearings for the day. Neither Senator Akaka, nor his staff, knew who had called a halt to the hearings, only that they had been informed that they should end the hearing.
I went across the hall in the Senate Dirksen building to hearing on military medicine to see if it had been closed down. Senators Jim Webb (Democrat) and Lindsey Graham (Republican) had decided to ignore the injunction and continue the hearing with the heads of military medicine for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Senator Claire McCaskill, who was to have chaired the committee meeting on the Afghan National Police good naturedly called Webb and Graham "rogues" for defying the edict to end the meetings.
And on the floor of the Senate, McCaskill said:
"In ten minutes, I was supposed to convene a hearing on the contracts for police training in Afghanistan. Now, this is a very important part of our mission in Afghanistan, is the training of local police departments. There was a witness who was going to be there from the State Department, a witness there from the Defense Department. The Inspector Generals were going to be there.
Just last week, GAO wiped out a contract that had been let on police training because of problems in the way the contract was competed, so this hearing was timely and it's important. We cannot succeed in Afghanistan if we do not have effective police training, and these contracts are problematic. The State Department is supposed to be overseeing it. We have hundreds of millions of dollars that's not being accounted for.
So what do I find out this morning? The Republican Party is not going to let us have a hearing? What in the world? Why in the world are we not being allowed to work this afternoon? Why in the world are we not able to ask questions at a hearing in a few minutes as to why the police training is not going well in Afghanistan and how we can do it better? Our men and women are over there and they are at risk if we don't get this right.
I don't get it. I don't get what the purpose of saying no is. I don't get what we accomplish. We're sent here to work. We're paid by the people of this country to work. And the idea that I had to call these witnesses and say, "Go home," because the Republicans won't let us have a hearing. Somebody has got to explain this to me."
All afternoon hearings were also cancelled by this parliamentary maneuvering leaving witnesses who had travelled to Washington from long distances, including senior military officers who had travelled from Hawaii and Korea for the Armed Services committee hearing wondering when they would be allowed to testify.
The choice of the Republican Senator to use his power to cancel all the longstanding Senate hearings scheduled on important issues for our country is appalling.
Let's hope that the spiteful action today will cause the Senate to relook its procedural rules and eliminate the ability of one Senator to halt the proceedings of the entire Senate.