Friday, July 13, 2007

Bad Presidents Need To Be Spanked And Inherent Contempt Is The Paddle!

It was 3:00 p.m. in Washington and the House Judiciary Committee was preparing to investigate the circumstances around the firing of seven U.S. Attorneys. There was just one small problem: The witness chair was empty. The failure of White House counsel Harriet Miers to answer a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee has put the Executive and Legislative branches on a Constitutional collision course and it's about damn time!

The President, as he seems to do with every inquiry into how decisions are made at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, exerted Executive privilege in defiance of the subpoena. Mr. Bush has stated that he is unwilling to let any current or former advisors appear before Congress while under oath. His compromise is to let Ms. Miers and other officials talk with Congress in private and off the record.

In other words, they could say whatever they want and since they would not be under oath, there could be no consequences if they lied.

This is where things get interesting. The Committee voted to reject the President's claim of Executive Privilege, which paves the way for Ms. Miers to receive a Contempt of Congress citation. It's an appropriate action, but what many people don't realise is that there are several different types of contempt and some have more teeth than others. All start with a referral, which, then leads to a vote of the appropriate body (House or Senate). A simple majority makes the charge stick. From here, however, things move in very different directions.
Here's a quick primer:

Civil Procedure: In this version, the Senate/House files an action in Federal District Court. The Court can then direct the person being cited to comply with the Senate/Houses' action. If the person fails to do so, they are in Contempt of Court.

Statutory Contempt of Congress: Here, the Senate/House finds the person in contempt and then refers it to the U.S. Attorney, i.e. the Justice Department. However, the Justice Department can decide not to act on it as was the case in the Reagan Administration when EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch was held in Statutory Contempt.

Inherent Contempt of Congress: This is the winner. It's the one with the most juice and the one that Congress hasn't used since 1935. Upon issuing a contempt citation, the person cited is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to that chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subject to punishment that the body may dictate, including immediate imprisonment.

It's clear that Congress is about to act against Harriet Miers. The question is, do they have the will to hit the Administration and hit it hard? We've all witnessed the obnoxious kid whose parents give him/her a 'good talking to' when we know that what they really need is a 'good ass cracking.' That's what we have here except that Congress is the indulgent parent and the President is the spoiled brat.

The job of the Legislative Branch is to provide oversight and it's time for them to spank the President.

I can think of no better way to administer it than to cite Harriet Miers with inherent contempt, arrest her, bring her before the House, put her on trial and, if she fails to comply, jail her. The President has shown that every 'good talking to’ in the world is not going to get his attention, his respect or the truth. It's time for stronger measures.

Call your representative today (202-224-3121) and tell them that you want Harriet Miers to be held in inherent contempt of Congress!


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