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Senate Grinds To A Halt

By Robert Brodsky

It's hard to get more ironic than this.

A Senate hearing on federal financial management and transparency in government was shut down early yesterday because of an obscure Senate rule which says the chamber cannot conduct hearings after 2 p.m. without unanimous consent. Republicans refused to consent to continuing the hearings.

Republicans blocked two other hearings--an Energy & Natural Resources Committee hearing on the environment and a Commerce Committee hearing national broadband plan--after Democrats won a motion to proceed to debate on the health care reconciliation bill.

Democrats were livid with the decision. "Ironically, as they make false claims about transparency regarding health reform, they're shutting down a committee hearing today on transparency in government," said Jim Manley, spokesman Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "The bottom line is that as millions of Americans are learning about the immediate benefits of health reform, Republicans are throwing a temper tantrum and grinding important Senate business to a halt."

The unexpected cancellation came only moments into the testimony of Ellen Miller, executive director of the non-profit Sunlight Foundation, before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security. Miller was interrupted by Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., just as she was planning to discuss how the government can be more open in its operations - maybe they should have stuck around and listened to her recommendations.

The Sunlight Foundation has posted video of the strange incident.

Meanwhile, the obstructionism is continuing today as the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight was forced to cancel its hearing on the management, oversight, and funding of police training contracts in Afghanistan. The hearing was scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Subcommittee Chairwoman Claire McCaskill offered an impassioned plea for Republicans to let the hearings proceed.

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