Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Specter to hold hearings on Bush conduct

Sen. Arlen Specter said Wednesday that he would hold hearings on the Boston Globe report that Bush has simply ignored 750 laws he disagrees with.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing the White House of a "very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into President Bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.

"There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here," Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. "What's the point of having a statute if . . . the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?"

Specter said he plans to hold the hearing in June. He said he intends to call administration officials to explain and defend the president's claims of authority, as well to invite constitutional scholars to testify on whether Bush has overstepped the boundaries of his power.

Good. That's a first step. Bush has dared Congress to rein him in; if Congress has any concern at all for its relevance as an institution, they should call that dare.

Specter makes the same point:

Specter said that challenging Bush's contention that he can ignore laws written by Congress should be a matter of institutional pride for lawmakers. He also connected Bush's defiance of laws to several Supreme Court decisions in which the justices ruled that Congress had not done enough research to justify a law.

"We're undergoing a tsunami here with the flood coming from the executive branch on one side and the judicial branch on the other," Specter said. "There may as well soon not be a Congress. . . . And I think that most members don't understand what's happening."

The founders envisioned three branches of government, each jealously guarding their prerogatives, as a way to prevent any one organization from dominating the country. The party system has distorted that; Congressional Republicans now have first loyalty to the president as the leader of the party, as Congressional Dems did under Clinton. Bush has played that for everything it's worth; perhaps now Congress will awaken and push back, once again taking up the Constitutional responsibility that the founders envisioned for it.

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