The Bush administration provoked a constitutional crisis when it advised former members of the administration to ignore Congressional subpoenas and said it would block Congress's attempts to pursue contempt charges.
The White House is trying to block Congress from performing its constitutional role in oversight of the executive.
The Bush administration advised former White House counsel Harriet Miers to ignore a congressional subpoena. She didn't even show up at the House Judiciary Committee to assert the claim of "executive privilege." House leaders were unsure of their recourse, since the administration claims the Justice Department is not required to pursue contempt charges, even in cases where Congress is investigating the politicization of federal law enforcement.
Congressional Democrats are reluctant to use their trump card: to arrest defiant witnesses and hold them under the principle of "inherent contempt." Under that principle, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court but has not been used since 1934, a majority of the House or Senate can order defiant witnesses held for the term of Congress. This administration has forced their hand.
House leaders reportedly still consider impeachment to be "off the table." They should reconsider to rein in a reckless president.
Bush and Cheney have committed numerous impeachable offenses. Norman Goldman, "senior legal analyst" for the Ed Schultz radio show, recently listed at least six of them:
Warrantless wiretaps, in violation of the 4th Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act;
Holding suspects, including US citizens, and transferring them to secret prisons as well as military brigs and Guantanamo, where they have been held incommunicado and outside the reach of courts, in violation of the 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments, as well as the Geneva Conventions;
Lying to Congress and the public to get authority to invade Iraq;
Ordering witnesses to defy congressional subpoenas;
Using "signing statements" to set aside portions of laws;
Public corruption in administering no-bid contracts in Iraq.
To which we would add obstruction of justice in the commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, which resulted from the coverup of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The House needs to get started right away. A July poll by American Research Group found that 54% of respondents support the impeachment of Cheney and 45% support impeachment procedures against the president. As the House focuses attention on the misdeeds of the administration, support for impeachment and pressure on GOP foot-draggers will increase.
Impeachment must start in the House, but in the meantime Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has proposed that the Senate proceed with a resolution to censure Bush as well as the truculent vice president. On Meet the Press July 22, Feingold said he sees censure as "a moderate course, not tying up the Senate and the House with an impeachment trial, but simply passing resolutions that make sure that the historical record shows the way they have weakened our country, weakened our country militarily and against al Qaeda, and weakened our country's fundamental document, the Constitution. I think that's a reasonable course and does not get in the way of our normal work."
Who could argue with that? Not Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Democratic whip, who said, "It's appropriate for us to take the censure resolution up. It is short of impeachment, but it's an important debate." Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., commented, "Frankly, we have so many other things to do The president already has the mark of the American people that he's the worst president we've ever had, and I don't think we need a censure resolution in the Senate to prove that. ... At this stage, Russ is going to have to make his case as to why we should do that rather than do our appropriation bills, finish the defense authorization bill, Homeland Security appropriation bill."
Republicans already are been throwing up every roadblock in their playbook to stop progressive initiatives. Republicans filibustered 42 bills in the first seven months of the 110th Congress, on a record-smashing pace. Dems have only a 51-49 majority &emdash; and that includes Republicrat Joe Lieberman. Senate rules require 60 votes to close debate, so even when the Senate voted 52-47 to end debate, it was not enough to advance a Democratic bid to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April.
Republicans will continue their partisan defense of the president until they are forced by their constituents to stand up for the Constitution. Congress members must be held to account so that the president can be held to account. Contact Democrats to urge impeachment hearings and contact Republicans to urge them to stand up for the Constitution. That is part of the process that should start with impeachment hearings.
United Auto Workers recently started talks with the Big Three carmakers on a new contract. Carmakers are pressing the union for more concessions in health benefits. GM, Ford and Chrysler would like to get rid of $90.5 billion in unfunded liability for retiree health care.
The car companies would like the union to take over health care liabilities. Goodyear last year talked United Steelworkers into taking $1 billion to assume liability for the company's estimated $1.2 billion in health care costs for 30,000 retirees and 12,000 active workers. Otherwise, the union risked losing all its health benefits if the company went bankrupt. In July the UAW agreed to a similar deal with Dana Corporation, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In exchange for taking on a $1 billion retiree health care liability, the UAW received $780 million in cash and stock.
A better solution would be for the carmakers and other manufacturers to get behind a national health care plan that would provide comprehensive care at lower costs than the current inefficient private-insurance model.
George W. Bush, who truly does not care about the problems of working people, has threatened to veto any expansion of health care which he sees as a step "down the path to government-run health care for every American." He was referring to a bipartisan plan to expand health care for children.
The Senate Finance Committee voted 17-4 in July to increase tobacco taxes to help finance expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which must be reauthorized by September. House Democrats are pushing an even broader plan that calls for major changes in Medicare, including cuts in Medicare payments to insurance companies.
The House bill has drawn support from two powerful groups, AARP and the American Medical Association, in part because it would prevent cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. But it could undermine private Medicare health plans, which were authorized in 2003 as part of Bush's corrupt attempt to to privatize Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office has found that the private plans cost 12% more than traditional Medicare.
Expansion of CHIP and trimming Medicare payments to insurance companies is a good step &emdash; and will be hard enough to get past the Bush White House. But the solution to our health care crisis is passage of HR 676, the US National Health Insurance Act sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., which would cover all medical services for every American, guarantee our choice of health providers and make insurance companies obsolete &emdash; at cost savings for businesses that now provide health coverage for their employees. -- JMC
From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2007
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