Specter: Truth commission would just be "fishing expedition"

At a hearing on the idea, Republican Senators give a glimpse into the kind of opposition they'll put up against it.

Published March 4, 2009 9:30PM (EST)

The Senate Judiciary Committee has been holding hearings Wednesday on whether to proceed with the idea of a different kind of committee -- a truth commission, to be exact, one that would investigate the activities of the Bush administration. And the Republican senators on the committee have been giving us a pretty good preview of the kind of opposition to the idea that we can expect to see coming from that side of the aisle.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, led the way, saying that it's Congress' role to provide oversight and the Justice Department's job to take care of criminal prosecutions. "It seems to me that we ought to follow a regular order here. You have a Department of Justice which is fully capable of doing an investigation,” Specter said. He also said a truth commission would end up as a "fishing expedition."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, followed Specter's lead, saying that Congress has already provided oversight and, for that reason, a commission would be “an indictment of congressional oversight responsibilities.” He also challenged supporters of the idea who say that a commission would be non-partisan, saying asking people to believe that is like asking them to believe in the "tooth fairy."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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By Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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Arlen Specter D-pa. George W. Bush Torture