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Christie, Legislature on Collision Course for Constitutional Showdown

Wisniewski and Weinberg both held out the possibility that the Assembly and Senate committees would find ways to work together in the future and avoid duplicating efforts, with Wisniewski suggesting that the committees might meet jointly to hear from subpoenaed witnesses.

While Republicans suggested during the Assembly floor debate that the Wisniewski committee should be given a 90-day deadline to complete its investigation, Wisniewski said setting a deadline of any sort would be foolish.

“We know a number of people that have been discussed have retained counsel. We could have people fight us on these subpoenas and it could take longer,” Wisniewski noted, adding that “it’s entirely possible we could get to the end of our two-year subpoena power and still not have all the answers.”

Republicans asked tough questions during both the Senate and Assembly floor debates yesterday, with Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) even asking why the Senate Special Committee on Investigations did not expand its aegis to include other past scandals, such as former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s appointment of his former lover, Golan Cipel, as head of Homeland Security.

But in the end, Republicans voted unanimously with the Democrats for the resolutions creating the investigative panels, which passed the Senate 33-0 and the Assembly 75-0, a tacit recognition that they did not want to be on record voting against the creation of an investigative committee in case there proves to be more to the scandal than is currently known.

Similarly, while the GOP members of Wisniewski’s committee, led by Handlin and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), argued vigorously against the resolution giving Wisniewski the sole authority to issue subpoenas and control over the release of subpoenaed documents within the committee, the four Republicans later voted behind closed doors to approve all 20 of the subpoenas issued.

“Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of this thing in case there’s something there,” one Statehouse observer commented. “Everybody remembers what happens to those who stayed on the wrong side for too long in Watergate.”

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