The Politico reports that House Republicans are plotting their strategies in preparation for contempt of Congress votes on Miers and Bolten.
And guess what? They're trying to come up with brainy-sounding excuses not to vote for it. Shocker!
Republicans see major flaws in the Democratic arguments for a contempt vote, including the risk of losing any court battle with the Bush administration over the issue of executive privilege.
"This is a reckless gamble, as it relates to the integrity of this Congress and the authority of future Congresses," [GOP staffer Brian] Kennedy said. A loss in a court fight with the White House — in this case, over Bush’s refusal to allow current and former aides such as Bolten, Miers and Karl Rove to testify or turn over internal White House documents related to the prosecutor firings — could well extend the right of future presidents to claim executive privilege when shielding their actions from Congress.
Indeed, such a loss could do just that.
Or, it could get punted right back out of court under the political question doctrine.
But one thing we know about Republicans: if there's something fear-able, they'll opt first to fear it.
So what will the House GOP be doing to avoid such a loss? Why, ducking the fight, of course. What else would a Republican (Look out! Terror! Go fight it, soldier! I'll wait here in the airport bathroom!) do?
At stake is the right of the legislative branch to conduct effective oversight of the executive branch. Period. That's it. While Miers, Bolten and others may have a theoretical leg to stand on with respect to the question of whether or not they're covered by claims of executive privilege, here's what they can't do: they can't blow off the committee, ignore subpoenas, and not even show up to assert the privilege. That's just flat contempt, open and shut. And if it stands, it means nobody from the executive need ever show up before a Congressional committee -- Democratic or Republican -- ever again.
And House GOP pants-wetters claim it's this fear that makes them... not want to fight at all.
Well, if you believe, for instance, that a Republican Congress should be able to compel testimony from a Democratic administration, then here are your options:
- Stand up and fight side-by-side with Democrats as Members of the United States House of Representatives for the integrity of the statutory contempt process
- Stick by your story that the court battle is too risky, and instead urge your colleagues to hold Miers and Bolten in inherent contempt
- Eliminate the whole question of contempt and just impeach the president for his obstruction, as was the plan with the third article of impeachment against Richard M. Nixon:
Article 3: Contempt of Congress.
In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of the President of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, had failed without lawful cause or excuse, to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things, Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgement as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by Constitution in the House of Representatives.
In all this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.
Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.
(Approved 21-17 by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 30, 1974.)
Well, Republicans? What's your plan for protecting the legislative prerogative?
What's that? Can't hear you. Come again?