As the House prepared to enter into a rare closed session Thursday night to discuss controversial electronic surveillance legislation, several House Democrats voiced strong objections to the meeting, offering a rare public objection to a floor decision by House Democratic leadership.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) said debating such an important issue behind closed doors “raises questions about the constitution of the U.S.” arguing that the House floor is “the citadel of free speech” and should not be closed to public view. Kucinich said he would not be attending the session.
"We are treading on very treacherous ground," said Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), arguing that the public should be shut out of the debate only if it is absolutely necessary.
House Republicans called for the session—which will be closed to the media and all but the highest level staff--to discuss classified information relating to an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Democratic leaders agreed to go along with the session earlier in the day.
Congress has been deadlocked for weeks over the measure, arguing over whether or not to grant retroactive immunity to telecom companies who aided the government in the wiretapping program after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Republicans have argued that if members are able to learn more about the program, they will grant the immunity to the telecoms.
It is just the sixth closed session in House history and the first since 1983 when the chamber discussed aid to Nicaragua.
Prior to the closed session, several Democrats took to the House floor to express their disappointment with the decision.
"I smell something, and I don't like being manipulated," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.).
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