March 14, 2008

Why the Contempt of Congress Issue Matters

House Democrats recently filed a civil lawsuit against White House Chief of Staff Bolton and former Whitehouse Counsel Miers for their refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas relating to the Fired US Attorneys Scandal. The details are complex, and wading through the swamp of legislative and legal rules and precedents for such a move is a daunting task at best. Yet the importance of this issue cannot be overstated. It is looking more and more likely that this issue may go to court, and if that is the case, one side will lose. I know that sounds very simple and obvious, but there are important implications to any definitive court ruling on this matter. Either way, such a ruling would set a precedent for all future Congressional/Executive clashes. Either the court will rule that the President can essentially grant Executive Privilege protections to nearly anything and anyone he wishes, or it will rule that Congress does posses meaningful oversight powers granted by the Constitution, and not even the President is exempt from the compulsions of that power. Obviously, the latter is the outcome Progressives (and human beings) believe would be best for the country, but a situation could easily arise wherein a Republican Congress could abuse such powers against a Democrat President. Both cases threaten to upset the delicate and already teetering balance of power in our government by overpowering one branch against the other. This will be an important issue to follow as it unfolds.

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