Friday, June 29, 2007

Democrats challenge White House on Gitmo, subpoenas

Just as the Supreme Court reversed course and agreed to hear arguments in the fall on whether Guantanamo Bay detainees can use federal courts to challenge their confinemen, Congress is moving ahead with a plan to cut Presidet Bush's budget for the prison. In July, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to propose funding only half of Guantanamo's budget in the military's annual spending bill. The White House has indicated they are considering closing it, but have announced no timetable. More than 140 House members have called for its closing.

Meanwhile, the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees on Friday began enforcing the five subpoenas that the White House challenged this week, attempting to attain a contempt of Congress citation. From The Hill:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) wrote to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, asking President Bush to relinquish or expand upon his broad claim of executive privilege to withhold documents and testimony relating to the mass firings of U.S. attorneys.

“[Y]our blanket assertion of executive privilege belies any good faith attempt to determine where privilege truly does and does not apply,” Leahy and Conyers wrote. The chairmen requested specific, document-by-document analysis of where executive privilege claims apply to the bloc of records that the Democrats seek.

Obtaining a full explanation of the executive privilege claim — only the second such assertion of Bush’s presidency — would allow Leahy and Conyers to “facilitate ruling on those claims and our consideration of appropriate action to enforce our subpoenas.”

Once Leahy and Conyers issue their ruling on the legal justification for the privilege claim, one or both judiciary committees are free to take up a contempt of Congress citation for the White House. Once a majority in one or both chambers votes to approve the citation, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia then would be called on to empanel a grand jury.

A deadline of July 9 was set for a reply from Fielding “before we move to proceedings to rule on your claims and consider whether the White House is in contempt of Congress,” the Democrats wrote.
Good stuff. Of course, some just want to outright impeach Cheney.

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