Congressman resorts to witness intimidation to silence critics of cap-and-trade bill.
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The same day that Markey apologized to Sokol, Barton and 19 other Republicans sent a letter to Markey and Henry Waxman (D-CA), the chairman of the Energy Committee, stating that such intimidation was unacceptable. “If a pattern of intimidation and bullying is being created by the majority party it is a sad thing,” the letter said. “As members of the minority party we will do everything possible to stop this emerging pattern.” They demanded that Waxman “take whatever actions necessary to make sure that witnesses are not subjected to sanction, retribution and vengeance simply because the facts and opinions they offer do not square with those of the Committee’s members.”
The Republican letter also cited an incident in which staff for Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) warned Democratic lobbyists not to let their clients meet with Republicans about health care legislation.
A spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said, “This is another indication that Democrats on Capitol Hill are creating a culture of intimidation to pass bills that are unpopular with the American people.”
Markey claims that there was no effort being made to intimidate witnesses hostile to his cap-and-trade bill and publicly apologized at a June 12 subcommittee hearing. “I would never seek to intimidate or retaliate against a person from having to come in and having to testify before this subcommittee.”
However, Republicans were not satisfied with Markey’s “mea culpa.” GOP lawmakers are mulling over the option of charging Markey with violating House ethics rules for “intimidating a witness.” Republicans said they would try to avoid calling for an ethics investigation if Democrats were able to satisfy the concerns they laid out in their letter to Markey and Waxman. Republicans are requesting a meeting with Waxman to air their grievances. If Waxman agrees to the meeting and Republicans still aren’t satisfied, then they may file an ethics complaint.
The heavy-handed tactics used by Markey and other advocates for the cap-and-trade bill showed just how desperate they were in the closing stretch of the House debate. The Waxman-Markey bill would drastically increase what Americans pay for electricity, gas and other energy-intensive products and services. The more that fact is revealed, the more unpopular the legislation will be. And it is not just Republicans. At least 50 House Democrats representing districts with substantial agricultural, rural and manufacturing refused to commit to supporting the legislation down to the final week before the vote. In the end, 44 Democrats voted against the Waxman-Markey national energy tax.
While the House vote represents a victory, it was so narrow that Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership do not have time to rejoice. There is every indication that the Senate battle over cap-and-trade, expected to take place in the fall, will be even more brutal.
Given public distrust and congressional discomfort over the political implications of Waxman-Markey’s tax increases, the only way its backers can seem to build support is through bribery or intimidation.
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