Censuring the President - A Retrospective
[Cartoon Update: A Fein Mess]
If you think back to 1998, when we had a President who really did break the law, who really did lie to the American public, who really did earn our collective condemnation and disdain with his deceit and abuse of power, you'll remember that the prospect of Congressional censure of Bill Clinton, first proposed by Senator Trent Lott, was viewed as a potential compromise between exoneration and impeachment.
At that time, the Congress dug through their own archives to try to determine whether or not it was in fact empowered to do such a thing and, if so, what exactly it might mean. The answers, respectively, turned out to be "sort of" and "not much". Nowhere is Congress explicitly empowered to censure the President, but nowhere is it precluded from doing so either. And given the legislature's fondness for symbolic declarations of this or that as good or bad, there would seem to be ample precedent at least to wave their hands and formally disapprove of whatever they feel like disapproving of. But that seemed to be about the extent of it.
Andrew Jackson was censured by the Senate in 1834 for refusing to turn over documents relating to a Presidential veto of legislation to extend the charter of the Bank of the United States (so much precedent pinned on such esoterica). Jackson, founder of the Democratic Party, maintained the Senate had no such power, a contention backed up by the Democrat-controlled House, and later affirmed by the Senate when the Democrats took control of the body in 1836. The Senate expunged Jackson's censure, downgrading it from meaningless and symbolic to retroactively non-existent and perhaps illegitimate.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: Good luck, Senator Feingold. This looks like a winner of an issue.
Further: Feingold's disingenuous and grandstanding motion is available for download here (pdf).
Update: Tim Chapman reports Senator Bill Frist is keen to diffuse the matter promptly by making his colleagues vote now or forever hold their stuntery. Our Senate Majority Leader really does earn his paycheck. Sen. Frist put on his blogger hat to sound off on the situation here, noting, "...while the Democrats flock to the TV cameras to grandstand and play politics with national security, we'll continue to focus on the principle of prevention. And we'll continue to do whatever it takes to protect American lives."
Handcrafted by Flip on March 13, 2006 |
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