Monday, July 16, 2007

Helping us realize what is at stake

John Dean discusses the showdown with Harriet Miers:
By not responding to the subpoena, the President and Ms. Miers all but invited the House Judiciary Committee and, in turn, the House of Representatives to vote to deem her in contempt of Congress. It was a defiant, in-your-face insult to Congress. No president would do this unless he was quite confident of the outcome. Clearly, Bush's White House and Justice Department lawyers believe that the solidly conservative federal judiciary will grant them a favorable ruling, and that, in the process, they will greatly weaken congressional oversight powers, to the advantage of the White House.

In short, the Bush White House is not bluffing with this act of defiance. Rather, the White House truly wants to test, and attempt to expand, presidential power. Bush's White House is ready, willing, and able to play hardball. Indeed, the White House may actually be trying to bait the House Judiciary Committee and the House of Representatives into voting to deem Ms. Miers in contempt of congress.

As a result of Miers's "no show," the full House Judiciary Committee will no doubt support the subcommittee, and vote to deem Miers in contempt. One can only hope - but probably this hope is in vain -- that Republicans may realize this is not a partisan issue, but an institutional matter, and thus will either abstain or vote to support the dignity of the committee on which they serve. Republicans should remember that they will one day be back in control, and may then be confronted by a Democratic president defying their subpoenas - and relying on this very precedent to do so. Realistically, however, there is zero chance that Republicans will place their constitutional interest ahead of their partisan interests.

The House Judiciary Committee itself cannot hold Miers in contempt; rather, the Committee can only report its request that this be done to the full House, which must then vote to deem her in contempt. Before the full House turns to this question, however, its members should not only carefully consider what they are doing, but also consider what they are not doing. At this stage, it is unclear how far this conflict will progress. The White House appears to have given this matter much more thought than Congressional leaders have thus far.

Long ago, Congress should have oiled up its most powerful tool to require Executive cooperation. No one who follows these matters is surprised that Bush is again pushing the envelope of presidential powers. But it continues to mystify me why Congress does not get its act together, and remind the White House that they are constitutional co-equals.

Update 7/17: Steve Bates of The Yellow Doggerel Democrat catches another viewpoint which is less scary:
The always essential Crooks and Liars supplies video of Keith Olbermann's interview with constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, who sees matters quite differently: reminding us that Congress has the power to try individuals for contempt directly, bringing them before Congress rather than the courts, Turley sees the Bush administration's approach as extremely foolish. Maybe no one told Gonzo or John Yoo or even Dick Cheney about that congressional power?


Steve Bates said...

Thanks for the link. Taken all together, that was a Very. Scary. Article. If Bush has indeed succeeded in packing the courts... something denied even to FDR... we may be in for a spell of Executive-only government. I think there's another word for that...

ellroon said...

Aren't we able to impeach members of the Supreme Court?

Anonymous said...

You can impeach judges for bad behavior. I'm not aware of anything impeachable, the fact that Scalia goes hunting with Cheney is disturbing but probably not grounds for being removed from the bench.

John Conyers already noticed Miers and the White House he would invoke inherent contempt if necessary.

This is going to go forward, John Dean is overanalyzing and freaking himself out.

ellroon said...

Well, he's freaked a whole lot of us out in the meantime...