Washington, D.C. – Amid a GOP walkout in the U.S. House of Representatives today, lawmakers approved contempt citations against White House officials which will implement a two-part strategy that allows Congress to pursue the matter in both criminal and civil court.
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) worked closely with House leadership to help pass the contempt resolution. The action comes after Harriet Myers, former White House counsel, and presidential chief of staff Josh Bolton ignored subpoenas from Congress to cooperate with an inquiry into whether the firings of U.S. Attorneys were politically motivated at the direction of President Bush.
Republicans boycotted the vote and staged a walkout.
Rep. Brad Miller’s remarks today on the House floor:
Mr. Speaker, I am not overly concerned by what the courts decide executive privilege covers. The Bush Administration’s claim of executive privilege goes well beyond any privilege recognized by any court decision, but the Republic will survive a court decision on the narrow question of the exact extent of executive privilege.
But the courts must decide. The President cannot decide by decree. The President cannot announce with absolute, unreviewable authority what information the Administration will provide or withhold.
The framers of our Constitution had just fought a war against an autocratic king. It is inconceivable that they intended to create an executive with the powers that the Bush Administration now claims.
For the entire history of our Republic, our courts have recognized that Congress needs information to carry out our constitutional duties, to decide what the laws should be and how to appropriate federal funds, and that we cannot rely on the information that is voluntarily provided. Congress must have the power to require information, including information the President might find inconvenient or embarrassing. We must inquire into the need for new laws, and must inquire into how existing laws are administered.
The Supreme Court said half a century ago that the investigative powers of Congress are never greater than when inquiring into misconduct by federal government agencies.
The allegations here are very serious. Decisions to bring criminal investigations cannot be used to reward political friends or punish enemies. Elections have consequences, but elections in America must never have those consequences. Criminal prosecutions guided by political concerns are fundamentally incompatible with democracy and the rule of law.
The two resolutions we are considering will allow important constitutional questions to be decided by the courts, which is how constitutional questions should be decided in a democracy.