May 18, 2007

Congressional Power to Rein in Gonzales

John Dean writes that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' lack of respect for Congress has created a crisis and then lists three ways his approach has worsened the Constitutional crisis. In addition to the blatant lying to Congress about the extent of discord in the DoJ over the illegal program and the withholding of Rove's email, Dean discusses why Gonzales's orders to the search Rep. William Jefferson's office was so disruptive to the traditional courtesy that had governed the relations between Congress and the Executive branch. And then Dean describes what power the Congress does have if it decides it will operate as ruthlessly as Gonzales did.

Congress could hold Gonzales in contempt by a simple majority vote (and that would not be difficult to obtain, given the feelings in both chambers about this Attorney General). It could hold him in contempt for his failure to respond to the subpoena he virtually ignored, or for his lies to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I will explain shortly.

Congress has two routes to travel, once it holds any person in contempt. It can proceed by the statutory route, which requires the Department of Justice to handle the prosecution. But since the Attorney General could block that route, the Congress would have good reason to use its inherent powers and procedures, instead.

Thus, Congress could --taking a page from Gonzales's playbook -- send fifteen plainclothes Capitol Hill police officers to arrest the Attorney General and take him into custody. Either the House or Senate, alone, would have the power to hold him until the end of the 110th Congress. In truth, a majority of either chamber of Congress has more power than a president, the Department of Justice, and federal courts to take summary actions against those who refuse to honor its processes.

Dean thinks it's not likely that Congress would operate with the same level of ruthlessness as Gonzales, but still ... I am relieved to see that Congress still has the power to bring that miscreant to account. They might need that power soon.

Posted by Mary at May 18, 2007 05:17 PM | US Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

It's nice to get a reminder out there that Congress can have teeth, what with the Unitary Executive stance the administration has been taking.

Posted by: tjewell at May 20, 2007 11:39 AM