Conyers files contempt report; says White House has one last chance
White House says 'futile' contempt filing 'won't go anywhere'
House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) filed a report today holding that two White House officials are in contempt of Congress for their continued refusal to honor subpoenas in connection with the controversial firing of US attorneys last year -- but he's offering one last chance to make a deal.
In a Monday letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Conyers wrote that he would be officially filing submitting the contempt report, a move which would allow the full House to later vote on the measure, but would stop the contempt process there if the White House would agree to a final compromise offer.
“I have written to you on eight previous occasions attempting to reach agreement on this matter,” Conyers says in the letter. “As we submit the Committee’s contempt report to the full House, I am writing one more time to seek to resolve this issue on a cooperative basis.”
The 862-page contempt resolution was filed with the House clerk Monday afternoon.
But White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters that an effort to bring a contempt citation to a vote was "futile."
"I'm just amazed that the Democrats actually think they've accomplished so much on behalf of the American people that they can now waste time again on another diversion," she said. "I don't know if they'll actually have a vote on the House floor or not. If they do, I guess we'll just take it from there. But it's been very clear that this is a futile attempt on their part, because they know that it won't go anywhere."
In July, Conyers had written Fielding to inform him that White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers could be held in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas seeking documents and testimony as part of a House Judiciary probe into the firing of nine US attorneys. President Bush had earlier blocked those requests, citing executive privilege.
In order to prevent further action on the contempt measure, Conyers is requesting that the White House provide communications documents pertaining to the firings, including internal White House materials, and asking that White House staffers be allowed to conduct private interviews -- albeit not under oath -- with the House Judiciary Committee.
“I hope you will consider this offer in earnest and based upon the good faith with which it is delivered,” Conyers writes, going on to give Fielding a Nov. 9 deadline.
Republicans in the House have already sprung into action, according to Politico's John Bresnahan.
"GOP leaders have begun to prepare their own counter-attack if a criminal contempt resolution vote takes place on the floor, and they plan to target conservative and moderate Democrats," he writes. "Republicans see several moves that signal a vote is likely to happen soon, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not made a final decision one way or the other at this time."
According to the Washington Post, Democrats have been working to secure the votes necessary to make sure that a contempt vote, if brought to the House floor, would be successful. "House Democratic leaders have spent the past 10 days trying round up enough votes to secure a majority on the House floor for a contempt citation, aware that some Democrats from moderate to conservative districts may be wary of such a high-profile vote against President Bush," says the paper.
If Fielding rejects Conyers' offer, reports the Post, a contempt vote could come as early as next week.
A full copy of the resolution is available here in pdf.