The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday along straight partisan lines to hold White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers in contempt of Congress, the first concrete step toward a constitutional showdown between the two branches of government.Party line means F. Jim Sensenbrenner voted no, but he did offer an alternative that at least sounds reasonable on its face:
“I think the White House is going to win in court,” asserted Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the former chairman of the panel. “If we do bring the case to court and lose, then that is going to be viewed as a blank check by the current president and the future presidents to snub the Congress” in its oversight responsibilities.”There is, of course, this sticky little problem that the LA Times notes. The Bush administration would have to agree to file the contempt case:
Instead of moving forward with the contempt citation, Sensenbrenner suggested the committee direct the House general counsel to file a civil suit challenging the president’s claim of executive privilege in the D.C. District Court, a move he said he would support. Conyers said he would consider filing the suit in addition to moving forward with the contempt citation.
If the House approves the resolution, the charges against Miers and Bolten will be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, although the outlook for a prosecution there is unclear. The administration has said the Justice Department would not pursue the contempt charges because it believes the law does not provide for such a prosecution when presidential aides assert executive privilege.As my mother used to say, "There's always something to take the joy out of life."