Thursday, February 08, 2007

Big Jim just as offensive, but powerless

He's used to getting his way, but now has to settle for getting some publicity.

Have to wonder, though: Does Sensenbrenner secretly like cockfighting or dog fighting, or what's his deal?

Former chairman shakes things up on animal fighting bill

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Until January, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner ruled the House Judiciary Committee with an iron fist, refusing to bring up an anti-animal fighting bill for a vote last year despite the support of more than 300 House members.

So when a similar bill finally came up for a committee vote Wednesday, the Wisconsin Republican wasn't ready to sit on the sidelines. He tried unsuccessfully to attach an anti-abortion amendment to it. After the amendment was ruled out of order, the committee approved the bill on a voice vote.

"The answer to the age-old question of 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?' - I would argue that it doesn't matter which came first," he said. "Both deserve our protection. Without this amendment, we will be giving more protection to chickens than we will be giving to minor children, their parents and their unborn baby."

The president of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, called the amendment "outrageous."

"It was designed to load up the bill in order to kill it," said Pacelle, whose group took out newspaper ads last year lumping Sensenbrenner in with illegal cockfighters and dogfighters.

The legislation, which now moves to the full House for a vote, would make transporting animals across state lines for fighting a felony, punishable by up to three years of jail time. Under current law, it's a misdemeanor. Cockfighting is banned in every state except Louisiana and New Mexico, and dogfighting is banned in every state.

Sensenbrenner's amendment would have made it a crime to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion to circumvent parental involvement laws.

But one of the perks he lost as chairman was the ability to rule on whether an amendment is "germane," and his successor, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, ruled this one was not.

Sensenbrenner was not alone in his crusade Wednesday.

"I will not sit here and lend my vote to a piece of policy that elevates chickens above the lives of humanity," declared Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

Supporters of the animal fighting bill argue that cockfighting is barbaric and inhumane, and is tied to crimes such as money laundering and drug running.

Sensenbrenner spokesman Rajesh Bharwani said that the congressman was not trying to revive his influence on the committee.

"His amendment at today's meeting was about raising the point that Democrats are more interested in protecting the rights and well-being of chickens over minor girls and their babies," Bharwani said.

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