Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Oversight and the Constitution

Two Bush administration officials, the current chief of staff (Josh Bolton) and the former White House counsel (Harriet Meiers) with contempt of Congress because they refuse to testify in an oversight hearing looking into the firings of the US Attorneys General.

Republicans in Congress opposed this move saying that it would only end with Bush winning and then all future Presidents would be able to do what ever they wanted regardless of any checks by Congress. I'm curious - how "do what ever they want regardless of any checks" would differ from what Bush is doing now?

While CNN's more populist personalities are criticizing Democrats for not doing anything, this is probably the most important thing that they could do. The actual firings are incidental. What is important is that Congress assert its authority as a co-equal branch of government with Constitutionally mandated responsibility for oversight and the authority to act on that responsibility.

This is a mundane sounding fight that most Americans will be easily convinced is mere partisanship. However, it is probably going to develop into the most important constitutional crisis since Watergate. If Congress can successfully reassert its oversight authority, it will apply to a whole range of Bush abuses of power.


The Law Talking Guy said...

The ability of the legislature to hold inquiries, issue subpoenas, and enforce them with penalties for contempt (sub + poena = under penalty) is a crucial part of legislative power and part of a long untrammelled parliamentary tradition. Until modern statutes were enacted, the "inherent power" of Congress to declare contempt was used repeatedly from the 1790s to the early 1930s. It can be used again today, if the DOJ is unwilling to do its duty.

Crucially, even modern statutes do not divest Congress of its inherent power to enforce contempt citations on its own. See In re Chapman, 166 U.S. 661 (1897) ("We quite agree ... that congress possessed the constitutional power to enact a statute to enforce the attendance of witnesses, and to compel them to make disclosure of evidence to enable the respective bodies to discharge their legitimate functions,’ and that it was to effect this that the act of 1857 was passed. It was an act necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested in congress and in each house thereof. We grant that congress could not divest itself, or either of its houses, of the essential and inherent power to punish for contempt, in cases to which the power of either house properly extended.")

USWest said...

This issue shouldn't be partisan. It is just another manifestation of the constitutional crisis that we have been suffering for the last 7 years. Republicans should be just as concerned about the imbalance of powers that they and their president have created as everyone else. Someday, it may be a Democratic administration who chooses to take advantage of the precedent that this current Administration has set. What we need are for real statesmen to come forward in Congress and to hold the Executive Branch to account for its abuses. Congress must reassert its constitutional powers. It must make movements toward impeachment.

This Administration has done more damage to the balance of power than did that of Nixon. Bill Moyers recently held an interesting discussion with two conservative commentators who said that the real constitutional crisis started with Nixon. Because Nixon resigned and was not formerly impeached, he was not held to account for his abuses of power. Both of these commentators used the word IMPEACH several times as in “both Bush and Cheney” should be impeached. They have clearly violated the U.S. Constitution several times, thus violating their oaths of office. I don’t think waiting these people out is appropriate. We need to think beyond politics and the next election to the future of our democracy. In order to address the constitutional crisis that we have now, real action must be taken. This is more important than politics. Besides, holding impeachment hearings would start an important dialogue in this country and it would educate the public about the real crisis that we now face. In fact,

I am not an expert on British history, but I believe that it was a powerful parliament that lead to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Great Britain. This Administration is acting like a monarchy. This is exactly what Madison and Jefferson feared. By commuting the sentence of Libby, Bush has shown himself to be above all law and sent the message to his underlings that if they lie on his behalf, they will not be held to account. Witness Gonzales.