Constitution lets Congress question members on firings

While the constitutional/political clash between the Congress and president continues regarding the testimony of key executive officials about the Bush administration’s firing of eight U.S. attorneys that the president had previously appointed, both congressional committees ought to seek the sworn, transcribed testimony of their own colleagues, New Mexico’s Sen. Pete Domenici (R) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R.)

This testimony should begin with questioning about the telephone inquiries each made to ousted U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, about which Iglesias testified and in that testimony hypothesized that his responses to Domenici and Wilson had triggered his ouster. The congressional inquiries of Domenici and Wilson should include exploration of the contacts either had with the White House or the Justice Department about Iglesias. …

The Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause, which states that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other Place,” would not immunize Domenici and Wilson from such questioning. The Supreme Court has stated repeatedly that that clause “generally forecloses [a legislator’s legislative conduct] from executive and judicial inquiry,” but not legislative inquiry. Rather, the Constitution gives each House broad powers to “determine the Rules of its Proceedings” and to “punish its Members.” As the Supreme Court has stated, each House may punish a member “by disciplinary action including expulsion from a member’s seat.”

Further, Domenici’s and Wilson’s communications with the executive branch, whatever their extent, are not likely to be protected by that clause because the Supreme Court also has stated, “[I]t has never been seriously contended that … [a legislator’s actions regarding] political matters [as opposed to legislative ones,] have the protection of the Speech or Debate Clause.” Domenici’s and Wilson’s communications were political in nature, not legislative. On the other hand, if called upon to testify, Domenici and/or Wilson could follow the example of Monica Goodling and invoke their Fifth Amendment right to decline to testify on the ground that their testimony might tend to incriminate them.

~From Jonathan Strong, Washington, D.C.



Article omitted Kucinich’s stance

Your article on April 18, “Dems divided over Webb’s proposal requiring approval for attacking Iran,” runs through the positions of the various presidential candidates on a possible attack on Iran. But you completely failed to mention the one candidate who strongly opposes any such attack: Congressman Dennis Kucinich. While former Senator John Edwards and Senator Joe Biden back requiring the president to obey the Constitution and obtain Congress’s authorization, they have not taken any options off the table, not even a nuclear attack. The other candidates, as you note, won’t even go as far as Edwards and Biden. Why completely erase from this almost-monotone discussion the position of the one candidate whose stance differs strongly from the others?

~From David Swanson, part-time consultant for Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s (D-Ohio) presidential campaign, Charlottesville, Va.

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