Tea Party beat reporter Kate Zernike was back on the reporting scene in a Thursday afternoon 'Caucus' post, 'A Tea Party 'Hearing' in the Senate That Wasn't .' Zernike surely used up her monthly quota of sarcastic quote marks in this snarky post mocking the unofficial hearings (sorry, 'hearings') held by congressmen who support the Tea Party.
A self-styled Tea Party debt commission was foiled Thursday in its effort to hold a Senate hearing on its proposals to reduce the deficit.
The 12-member commission, which was appointed by the libertarian group FreedomWorks, has been holding hearings across the country over the last several months. It had arranged for several Tea Party-aligned Republicans, including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, to convene what they called a 'hearing' Thursday afternoon in the Russell Office Building, one of the three Senate buildings across the street from the Capitol. There it planned to present its final recommendations in which it declares, against the argument of many Republicans and Democrats alike, that Congress can erase the national debt and reduce spending at the same time it preserves the Bush-era tax cuts.
Capitol police shut down the room after a suspicious package was found in Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions office.
FreedomWorks staff members had been celebrating it as something of a coup that they were holding their 'hearing' at the same time as a meeting of the joint Congressional committee charged with cutting $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. 'Dueling debt committees,' they crowed in a press release earlier in the week.
Evicted from the Russell Building, they saw suspicious motives - big government strikes again! - and issued another press release declaring the shutdown 'outrageous.'
'They're kicking us out of our own building because they're afraid we are going to do something crazy, like balance the budget,' said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks president.
In fact, Senate rules say that only official Senate committees can convene an actual 'hearing,' so FreedomWorks had reason to believe that they had been shut down by Senate procedure (even if it didn't deter them from going along with the plans for the 'hearing' in the first place.)
Zernike concluded with a crack at conservative Hillsdale College, and the hearing.
Mr. Lee promptly led the activists down the street to a room at an outpost of Hillsdale College, a conservative institution that has taught its interpretation of the Constitution - but apparently not the Senate rules - to many Tea Party supporters. There, the activists resumed their meeting. Or hearing?
By contrast, Times reporter Scott Shane was quite respectful of an unofficial hearing held on June 16, 2005 by a far-left anti-war fringe aimed at impeaching President George W. Bush and organized by Democratic Rep. John Conyers. Shane skipped the sarcastic quote marks around "hearing" used by Zernike, and the story's text box spoke truth to power: "As the White House dismisses accusations about its behavior, loud calls for answers,' Shane ignored the nuttiness and paranoid anti-Semitism of participants, and the inclusion of radical Cindy Sheehan and discredited Joe Wilson.