Democrats "Hear" Victory
Check out this week's Congressional hearing landscape, and you'll see the spoils of the Democratic victory last fall across both ends of the Capitol.
Far and wide, House and Senate committees are holding oversight hearings into various actions and activities by the Bush administration, highlighting controversies from the handling of recuperative care for Iraq war veterans and the allegations of political reasons behind the mass firings of federal prosecutors three months ago.
Democrats openly gloated yesterday at the prospect of holding President Bush and his advisers' feet to the fire -- and gaining the requisite media attention to further highlight these issues.
Democrats now say they have held 81 oversight hearings on the Iraq war since taking over the gavels from the former GOP chairmen, and that's just on one issue.
This week started with a hearing Monday on the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the pace picked up Tuesday morning with a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting in which four of the ousted federal prosecutors testified and, in some cases, blamed their ousters on politics.
That hearing ran concurrently with a Senate Armed Services hearing on Walter Reed, and those hearings were followed up by a re-run of the hearings on dismissed U.S. attorneys before a House Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday afternoon.
And on Wednesday a Senate Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on "defense medical programs" and there's an afternoon hearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee -- again on Walter Reed.
"America voted for change in November. This is just the beginning," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a member of the Democratic leadership, declared in a Tuesday morning House floor speech. "What a difference a year makes."
These hearings have helped mask coverage of ongoing divisions within Democratic ranks of how best to proceed with their plans to challenge President Bush on Iraq war policy, as The Post's Jonathan Weisman demonstrated again Tuesday with a story showing the latest shift among House Democratic leadership on Iraq.
Even Republicans admitted that the pace of hearings was taking its toll.
"I've always thought that the best part of this job is there's never a dull day -- and this is probably as good an example of that as there is," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
A member of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees, Cornyn faced a choice on Tuesday between Pentagon failures at Walter Reed or the hearing on fired U.S. attorneys.
He chose Walter Reed.
And all these hearings were scheduled before the third branch of the government, the judiciary, came in with bad news Tuesday for the White House: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was found guilty of perjury and obstruction in relation to the investigation of the leak of a classified operative's name. An already bad day got worse for the White House and its Capitol Hill allies.
Oversight became a key talking point among Democrats, capped off by an evening release from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) highlighting the hearings on Walter Reed and the U.S. attorney matter.
Clearly, Hoyer and Democrats are considering this week a victory on message issues.
"The Administration's missteps and miscalculations went unchallenged for far too long," Hoyer said. "When concerns arise, they need to be dealt with quickly and decisively in order to ensure that problems are remedied and challenges are overcome."
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