Ashcroft Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

One congressman's respect for rules has stymied Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempt to discuss new investigative guidelines for the war on terror.

Ashcroft was set to testify to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday about FBI reforms and other changes to aid the Justice Department's prosecution of the war on terror, but panel Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., cancelled the hearing when he learned Ashcroft failed to submit advance copies of his testimony.

Committee rules require all witnesses — even attorneys general — to send copies of their prepared remarks 48 hours before the actual hearing to allow members to formulate questions.

By Thursday morning, Ashcroft's remarks had not arrived, and Sensenbrenner, who is known as a stickler for the rules, said the attorney general's inaction was unacceptable.

The Justice Department expressed regret about the decision.

"We regret that Chairman Sensenbrenner exercised his right to cancel to hearing despite the Attorney General's offer to waive his opening statement during his appearance before the committee. The attorney general was looking forward to appearing before the committee to champion the new attorney general guidelines and FBI reforms, both of which strengthen our ability to prevent terrorist attacks," DOJ Director of Public Affairs Barbara Comstock said.

This isn't the first time Sensenbrenner has cancelled a hearing when testimony did not arrive on time.

A few months ago, INS Commissioner Jim Ziglar came to his hearing carrying copies of the testimony. Sensenbrenner said that was not good enough and postponed the hearing.

Ashcroft's hearing has not yet been rescheduled.

Fox News' Ian Christopher McCaleb contributed to this report.