Thursday, 15 March 2007

Congressional action: the subpoenas cometh

Well it appears Congressional Democrats are finally starting to flex their political muscle on two big issues: Iraq war policy (see this post) and the flurry of troubles at the Justice Department, notably the politically-motivated firing of US attorneys.

First of all, the Justice Department investigation:
Washington Post:

The Senate Judiciary Committee today authorized the use of subpoenas to compel the testimony of five Justice Department officials as part of an investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, but the panel put off a vote on subpoenas for top White House aides, including senior political adviser Karl Rove.

Meeting in an executive session, the 19-member committee voted to authorize the issuing of 11 subpoenas -- five for Justice Department officials involved in the firings and six for U.S. attorneys who were dismissed last year in the controversial purge. The subpoena authority gives the panel a fall-back position in case any of the current and former officials refuse to testify voluntarily or Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales reconsiders his pledge to let his subordinates appear before the committee.

While Gonzales has ambiguously admitted some things, this administration always has a fall guy (Libby in Plamegate; Mueller in FBI lawbreaking). Plenty of politicians of all stripes have called for Gonzales to step down. One of the best arguments I've seen and blogged about is that of the New York Times.

Because of a Congressionally-stonewalling, non-balenced, and unchecked (in governmental power) White House, unresponsive for its actions, along with the Democrats' rather slim majority in the Senate, one of the few powers the Dems can exercise would be subpoena power over the Bush administration. However, they have yet to be tough like the GOP was in its 12-year majority because of reasons of political and public perception. The executive is still well-liked compared to the legislature, at least in the public's eyes.

Even if one sides with Bush, this is a good exercise of democratic political power seen in democracies and, like the fact there was a report that revealed the FBI's law-breaking, it shows not all transparency is lost, even in an administration as closed to the public as the current one.

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