Feingold Should Broaden His Censure Rationale
There has been a lot written about the political wisdom of Russ Feingold’s censure resolution, and we know that Arlen Specter will grant a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feingold’s proposal this week. Yet Specter is already making noises that he will smack Feingold down and not let him build up too much a head of steam, because Specter thinks it is premature to move in Feingold’s direction until he, Specter, can try and get his own proposal through Congress on reining in the White House’s domestic spying abuses. We can safely assume that Specter will try and fail to pass a requirement that the FISA court provide oversight of Bush’s illegalities here, since Specter, as many of you have noted, is all talk and little action.
But assuming that Feingold's resolution runs into opposition this week because it deals with an issue for which the jury is still out (the NSA spying issue), perhaps Feingold can pivot and catch Specter off guard by reframing the reason for his proposal onto ground that is already established: unchecked executive power not granted in the Constitution. Even if Specter and the rest of the GOP enablers want to hide behind a yet-to-be-concluded inquiry and resolution aimed at dealing with the specific issue of NSA spying, there isn’t one GOP senator who could justify letting Bush decide the true meaning of Congress when he issues his bill signing statements. A case in point was this past week, when it was reported that Bush signed the Patriot Act extension and decided in his bill signing statement that he wouldn’t necessarily comply with its reporting requirements to Congress on how the FBI was using the Act’s powers.
If I were Feingold, I would challenge any GOP senator next week to support Bush’s actions here, and would broaden the basis for the censure resolution beyond the NSA spying program into the area of unchecked executive power, and make Specter and the rest of the GOP committee sycophants side with Bush clearly on this issue for the fall campaign. It will be politically easier to make a case against the White House and the Senate GOP incumbents this fall that a president who is no longer trusted shouldn’t be granted rubber-stamp authority to shred the Constitution by a GOP Congress, than it would be to fight this issue out on the more narrower but base-pleasing issue of domestic spying.