Monday, March 13, 2006
A liberal Democrat and potential White House contender is proposing that the Senate censure President Bush for authorizing domestic eavesdropping, saying the White House misled Americans about its legality.
"The president has broken the law, and, in some way, he must be held accountable," Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said.
A censure resolution, which simply would scold the president, has been used just once -- against Andrew Jackson in 1834 over a dispute about banking.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called the proposal "a crazy political move" that would weaken the United States during wartime.
The five-page resolution to be introduced today contends that Bush violated the law when he set up the eavesdropping program within the National Security Agency. Bush says that his authority as commander in chief and a September 2001 congressional authorization to use force in the fight against terrorism gave him the power to authorize the surveillance.
The White House had no immediate response.
In the House, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is pushing legislation that would call on Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeachment.
The program gave intelligence officers the power to monitor -- without court approval -- the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents, when those officers suspect terrorism may be involved.
Frist, appearing on ABC's "This Week," said that he hoped al-Qaeda and other U.S. enemies were not listening to the infighting.
"The signal that it sends, that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander in chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that is making our homeland safer, is wrong," Frist said.
Feingold was the only senator to vote in 2001 against the USA Patriot Act, expanding the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers.