Constitutional Showdown Over US Attorney Firings?
By Deniz Yeter
Friday 23 March 2007
Democrats push for cooperation while the White House stalls for time, accusing them of pushing a partisan agenda.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the authorization for subpoenas earlier today to be issued for Karl Rove,
Harriet Miers, and other top White House aides, following the House Judiciary Subcommittee's approval on Wednesday.
The authorization is in response to the White House's refusal to cooperate by having key White House officials appear
before Congress, citing that they will only allow Rove, Miers, and others to appear behind closed doors, without being
sworn under oath and without a transcript.
Appearing on CNN yesterday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded to the White House's offer, saying that, "It's
sort of giving us the opportunity to talk to them, but not giving us the opportunity to get to the bottom of what really
"With no transcript, with no oath, with private conversations that can be contradicted, recollections can fail, you're
not going to get very far."
Senator Leahy (D-Verm.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also responded to the White House's offer by
saying: "They came up and said, 'This is our offer. Take it or leave it. Accept these papers where we've erased 100
pages or more so you don't even know what's on there. Do a closed door hearing where the public has no idea what is said
and they're not under oath, and if you don't like that, take it or leave it.' Well nobody's going to take that."
Facing the likelihood of the Democratic Congress issuing subpoenas, White House Spokesman Tony Snow promised that, "If
they issue subpoenas, the offer's withdrawn."
President Bush has also promised to fight the Democrats in court if they issue subpoenas, taking the matter all the way
to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to protect his executive privilege.
This could effectively stall the matter for months or even years, when the president and his officials are no longer in
The Supreme Court battle would test the validity of President Bush's newly expanded, post-9/11 executive powers against
Congress's authority to oversight guaranteed under the country's constitution.
In the past, President Bush has used this same presidential power to deny the 9/11 Commission the ability to have
Condoleezza Rice testify under oath, but previously stated that it wouldn't set any precedent for his ability to do so
in the future.
Lawmakers from both sides are meeting today in an attempt to avert a potential confrontation and strike a deal that
will please both sides, though the prospects of such a deal are looking a bit grim.
When reached for comment, David Carle at Senator Leahy's office commented that, "Subpoenas will be issued if they're
needed, but ideally the senator hopes it doesn't have to come to that."
When asked about the possibility of a constitutional showdown over the matter, Mr. Carle responded, "The Senator wishes
not to speculate over the matter, but again, we hope it doesn't have to come to this," and that the White House will
David Carle also stated that presidential advisers from Carter to Clinton have testified before Congress on 74
occasions in recent history.
According to an October 6, 2004 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report from the Library of Congress, the Bush
administration has already refused this request from Congress on 8 occasions.