Contempt citations on hold as Dems, Bush craft stimulus plan
Last week it was "pretty certain" that House Democrats would quickly move forward with contempt citations against two Bush administration figures who were stonewalling Congress. Then the economy started circling the drain.
The planned citations now appear to be on hold as Congress and the White House work on a bipartisan economic stimulus package, the central tenet of which involves cutting virtually everyone an $800 check.
Democratic leaders and aides tell The Politico that pursuing the contempt citations in conjunction with the stimulus package would "step on their message" of bipartisanship.
The contempt citations against former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten were approved by the House Judiciary Committee in July after the two ignored subpoenas requiring their testimony on the US Attorney firing scandal.
Democratic aides told RAW STORY last week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was about to sent the citations to the full House. The higher priority now appears to be doing something about the US economy, which many fear is nearing recession.
“Right now, we’re focused on working in a bipartisan fashion on [the] stimulus,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) told Politico, indicating that the contempt vote is not expected for weeks, depending on how quickly the stimulus package moves.
Pelosi and House Republican leader John Boehner are Congress's chief negotiators with the White House in working out details of the $145 billion plan, and the two branches seem to be nearing a deal, according to the Washington Post.
"I left the meeting that I just had in the Cabinet Room with the leadership in the House and the Senate with a very positive feeling," Bush said Wednesday. "All of us understand that we need to work together. All of us understand that we need to do something that will be effective. And all of us understand that now is the time to work together to get a package done."
The president's optimism and work-together attitude on the stimulus package sharply contrasts his administration's approach to Congress's investigation into the firing of nine US attorneys in 2006 that appeared to be politically motivated.
Bush has invoked executive privilege in refusing to allow his current or former aides to testify and withholding documents from Congress, although the administration has also insisted that the president was not directly involved in discussions relating to the firings.
Pelosi supports the contempt citations, although some critics say even those do not go far enough to hold the administration accountable because the Justice Department has indicated it will simply ignore them.
But the Speaker has received mixed messages from the Democratic caucus, and "insiders" tell Politico that the citations do not currently have enough support to pass right now.
"When we have the votes, we'll go ahead with this," a House Democratic insider, speaking anonymously, told Politico. "Right now, the votes are just not there."
Correction: Bush's chief of staff's last name is spelled Bolten.