Prior to this I just sat through a hearing which Pelosi scheduled 12 votes in the middle of, exactly as the Republicans used to do. Conyers subpoenaed no documents or people and put noone under oath. The media left in the middle because of all the votes. And the media was less than it had been when Conyers' hearings were unofficial minority affairs. The only difference was the presence of rightwing nuts at the witness table lying out from under oath. So, it is with some frustration and foreboding that I begin listening to this event. Blogging follows.

4:25 pm John Nichols introduces Chuck Collins and Congress Members Barbara Lee, Steve Cohen, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Bob Filner, and Maurice Hinchey.

Collins spoke first. The Institute for Policy Studies ("Defining the Issues") is sending this out live to radio stations.

Collins suggests holding hearings off the Hill around the country, and tying them to activism. Fine. But how about using them to demand truth out of a criminal White House?

B. Lee spoke next, then Conyers. Conyers described signing statements as Bush placing himself above the law.

"You talk about removing Bush. How do you remove Bush without removing Cheney? …An election is coming in 08. So, we'll be holding oversight hearings. What I want to do is make sure that we have a very clear record. There are a lot of books out now exposing the Bush Administration….The Bush Administration and their allies have been given a vote of no-confidence. But it is up to the Democrats to prove themselves and win a vote of confidence. So we have a list of issues: health care, etc…, signing statements, voter intergrity, ending the war in Iraq by the Constitutional means of exercising the power of the purse to do that….He's not the commander in chief of citizens. He can't fire us. We can fire him."

Nichols: What if we get to a crisis where the president refuses to cooperate (e.g. with the use of the power of the purse)?

Conyers: Then we get to the point of removing him from office.


4:40 Now Kucinich is up. Nichols asked how Congress can prevent a war in Iran. Kucinich replied that Bush is planning an air attack.

The room is packed! People are having to stand now.

Kucinich: The closer they get to attacking to Iran, the closer they get to [impeachment]. He said it without saying the word.

Then he said what they're doing toward Iraq is exactly the same as what they've been doing. (But then why not impeach them now or years ago?)

Dennis is talking about cutting off war funding. Nobody has mentioned what their committeed will do yet.

Lynn Woolsey is here now.

Barbara Lee says that she and Woolsey are introducing a bill to block an attack on Iran tonight.

Kucinich: Bush's domestic urban policy has been limited to three cities: Baghdad, Tehran, and New Orleans, and everything they've touched has been a disaster….We're going to hold a whole week of hearings on cities, inviting in mayors and city activists. We're going to hold hearings on rural areas, inviting in farmers; the lack of labor enforcement, NLRB, OSHA; the Fairness Doctrine; civil rights; nuclear power; …I would invite any of you who have ideas for hearings to join with us. OK. WHAT ABOUT KATRINA?

Barney Frank is here now.

Conyers and Kucinich have left.

4:52: Filner is describing the plight of veterans abandoned by our military.

The VA health system is the largest public health system in the world (??) and looks like single-payer. Why not expand it?

Shiela Jackson Lee is here.

Barney Frank points out that the VA health care system is actually government medicine, a step beyond single-payer health coverage.

Frank: (on topic of corporations) We plan to legislate, mandate some degree of shareholder control over executive pay.

Frank: Katrina is our first hearing. (GOOD!!!) "The Bush Administration's policy toward New Orleans is ethnic cleansing by inaction."

We will have a hearing on Tuesday held by myself and Maxine Waters on the failure of the Bush Administration's policy. And Maxine will take her subcommittee to New Orleans. We're only dealing with housing, not the levees, etc.

We will have hearings on hedge funds and private equity.

5:08: Frank: We will have the Chairman of the Federal Reserve testify, and then the next day we will have some other witnesses comment on what he said.

We will get back in the business of building affordable housing, in cooperation with Charlie Rangel.

Steve Cohen, freshman Democrat from Memphis, joined the panel although not a committee chair. He says the war is the main issue. He says people want Congress to bring the troops home. Cohen thinks that Bush believes that now that the French Quarter has been opened for drinking Mission's been Accomplished.

Filner added that the Veterans Committee will also go to New Orleans where the hospital has not been reopened.

Shiela Jackson Lee said she sees stern faces and would expect the crowd here to have huge smiles on our faces. (Give Us a Reason, Congresswoman. You've had a month!)

There will be more sunlight, she says, suggesting she will do oversight and investigations. But she goes immediately into talking about the 08 elections.

We're going to look at whether foreign investment has a negative impact on security….

We need immigration reform that treats people with dignity….

Nichols has yet to ask anyone why they are not using subpoenas! First hour of show is over.

Shiela Jackson Lee says she wants to focus on college racism and makign fun of Martin Luther King Jr.

Diane Watson is here now. She and Lynn Woolsey are the only ones left at the table.

5:20: Nichols asked Watson about media consolidation. She said she was very interested and concerned, and described the problem.

Nichols asked Woolsey about her work on ending the war, and she described it.

Barbara Lee is back.

Woolsey said HR 508, the bill to end the war, has 28 cosponsors.

Maurice Hinchey is back.

Woolsey read the Progressive Caucus's position on Iraq, which calls for bringing our troops home in six months.

Rep. Keith Ellison just came in and sat in the front row.

5:30: Rep. Barbara Lee is speaking now about ending the war.

Bill Goold just asked Ellison to move to the speakers' table.

5:32: Nichols finally brought up accountability and Cheney and asked Hinchey to address it. Hinchey tried to shift to media reform, and Nichols directed him back on topic. Hinchey began with the Libby trial. He said he sent a letter to Patrick Fitzgerald asking him to investigate not just who revealed Velerie Plame's identity but why. That's coming out now, Hinchey said, and it was in order to punish Joe Wilson for debunking Bush/Cheney's nuclear weapons lie….Hinchey told the whole story….The documents were FORGED, Hinchey stressed twice….The reasons the administration used to launch this occupation were ALL falsified….All of that were shown to be false….the 16 words….Bush had been told by the CIA that that was not true.

Nichols: You've sent a letter to Cheney suggesting he might want to come testify before Congress.

Hinchey: Well I think it's about time.

[Huge Applause.]

5:39: Nichols turned to Ellison, and said: You campaigned saying you would end the war and hold this administration to account.

Ellison: This war is horrible. We've got to get out of it. But we've got to stop the next war.