Contempt Citations: House Tells Bush To Bring It On genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Seven Deadly Sins

In response to President Bush's refusal to allow the testimony of Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers in the U.S. Attorney firing investigation, the House Judiciary Committee has voted to issue contempt of Congress citations. The committee vote in favor if the issuance was 22-17.

The 22-17 vote — which would sanction for pair for failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings of several federal prosecutors — advanced the citation to the full House.

Committee Chairman John Conyers said the panel had nothing to lose by advancing the citations because it could not allow presidential aides to flout Congress' authority. Republicans warned that a contempt citation would lose in federal court even if it got that far.

"If we countenance a process where our subpoenas can be readily ignored, where a witness under a duly authorized subpoena doesn't even have to bother to show up, where privilege can be asserted on the thinnest basis and in the broadest possible manner, then we have already lost," Conyers, D-Mich., said before the vote. "We won't be able to get anybody in front of this committee or any other."

With Conyers' statement, more prescient words could not have been spoken. In fact, one has to wonder if Conyers' fears are exactly the objective of the Bush administration. If the recent statements that have come from the White House are an indication of their willingness to negate the authority of Congress, the voting public should prepare for an historical showdown.

Conyers' predecessor, former Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., argued that Democrats can't win that fight.

A civil lawsuit in federal court would be less perilous for the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, he said, than a constitutional battle over contempt.

"I think that the White House is going to win an argument in court" over the contempt matter, Sensenbrenner told the panel.

If history and self-interest are any guide, the two sides will resolve the dispute before it gets to federal court. Neither side wants a judge to settle the question about the limits of executive privilege, for fear of losing.

But no deal appeared imminent.

I could be wrong, but the notion of making "deals" doesn't seem to appeal to this President. He is much happier with absolute authority and the actions of the Vice President and other members of his administration are a testament to the long held belief that expanding the power of the executive branch remains a priority.

History has shown that there is often great irony attached to battles of this nature. More often than not, those men and women who seek to accumulate more power are frequently the least capable to properly administer said power.

It is thought by many that George Bush is concerned about his legacy. While it is clearly too early to draw any certain conclusions, I suspect that history will add George Bush to the list of men and women whose craving for power far exceeded their capacity to command it.

In the meantime, the American public will be forced to watch as he attempts to pile his plate with power. Now I'm not an expert on Christian doctrine...but somewhere in the back of my mind I recall a discussion of seven deadly sins...and I'm almost certain that gluttony was on that list.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but could it be possible that I just acquired a better understanding of what George Bush means when he says, "Bring it on!"?

Image courtesy of Edmonton Public Schools

Tagged as: Balance of Power, Contempt of Congress, Executive Power, George Bush, Harriet Miers, John Conyers, Josh Bolten

Daniel DiRito | July 25, 2007 | 11:05 AM
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