Congress Hears Boos Over Sports Probes

In recent months, C-Span viewers could be forgiven for thinking that they were watching ESPN instead.

With the Roger Clemens hearing, the investigation into the New England Patriots cheating scandal, and the uproar over the NFL forbidding Super Bowl broadcasts in churches, Congress is spending a lot of time on sports lately. And critics are claiming that with issues such as the Iraq War, a slumping economy, and a devastating housing crisis, the nation's lawmakers are wasting their time, to say nothing of taxpayer dollars.

Even Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., regretted holding the Clemens hearing.

But that hasn't stopped his colleagues. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is using words like stonewalling — usually reserved for major league obstructionists like the White House — to describe the NFL's lack of cooperation into his Judiciary Committee's probe into whether the New England Patriots cheated.

Specter has also vowed to personally sit in on any grillings by his committee to make sure no softball questions are thrown at Patriot officials.

And today, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Trade and Consumer Protection has summoned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, baseball commissioner Bud Selig and NBA commissioner David Stern for yet another hearing.

"I think that leagues should police themselves," said USA Today columnist and ABC News consultant Christine Brennan. "I understand how senators and congressmen and women can get all up in arms about sports because everyone does — that's the nature of sports. But I think they should leave the cheering to fans in some of these instances."

Waxman's hearing on Feb. 13 was a remarkable spectacle featuring a dozen members of Congress grilling Roger Clemens and his main accuser to determine whether Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. The panel is now deciding whether to refer a possible perjury case to the Department of Justice.

Some committee members called the Clemens hearing a waste of time.

"Congress shouldn't reduce itself to the kind of kangaroo court spectacle we saw at the Roger Clemens hearing," committee member Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told ABC News. "Holding that hearing was unwise and unnecessary."

"I don't like to see Congress doing this," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind. "This doesn't seem to be something that I think Congress should be doing."

"I understand the argument of 'What is Congress doing?'" said Brennan. "These people are spending tax dollars and talking about Roger Clemens … I understand why people in Des Moines and Albuquerque would throw up their hands and say, 'These are our tax dollars at work?'

"But I think athletes are significant role models for children and if there are kids are who are taking performance-enhancing drugs because of what they perceive is going on in baseball or other sports, then I think it's definitely within the purview of Congress to look into it," Brennan said.

Specter, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, became involved with the issue in November when he wrote to NFL commissioner Goodell about the Eagles' loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, a game that Specter attended.

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