House Democrats Pass Contempt Citation Against Miers and Bolten

The standoff over subpoenas for Bush advisors who are refusing to testify is moving to the next level.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a contempt of Congress citation Wednesday against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and one-time Counsel Harriet Miers, setting up a constitutional confrontation over the firings of federal prosecutors.

The Justice Department said it would block the citation from prosecution because information Congress is demanding is protected by executive privilege. Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House effort was important nonetheless. The contempt proceedings, she said, “are part of a broader effort by House Democrats to restore our nation’s fundamental system of checks and balances.”

The 22-17 party-line vote — which would sanction the pair for failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings — advanced the citation to the full House. A vote there is possible this fall.

Ultimately, this is a showdown that will be decided by the courts. My guess is the White House will win, since it’s hard to imagine that people in his kitchen cabinet wouldn’t be covered under executive privilege in something other than a criminal investigation.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dale says:

    I agree, the Dems will ultimately lose this in the courts. All of this talk about sending the Sergeant at Arms to the White House to haul Miers and Bolten to the hill and lock them up, is just that…talk. The Dems may very well have painted themselves into a corner on this issue at least.

  2. Beldar says:

    The key sentence from your quote is the last one. Consistent with that, from Politico‘s reporting:

    Update – Pelosi’s office just released a statement on the issue. Pelosi signaled that the House will not take up the resolution until September.

    This is about political theatre that the Democratic congressional leaders want to stretch out as long as possible. If they thought they had even a decent chance of winning, they’d be pushing for a prompt judicial resolution, rather than declaring a six-week delay for further sound-biting.