Finally, someone talks about what
could happen if neither Congress nor Bush back down over the recently issued subpoenas:
RUSSERT: Are you prepared to hold the Bush White House, the vice president, the attorney general and his office under contempt of Congress?
LEAHY: That is something that the whole Congress has to vote on. In our case, in the Senate, we'd have to vote on it; in the House, they would have to vote on it. I can't...
RUSSERT: Would you go that far? LEAHY: If they don't cooperate, yes, I'd go that far.
Contempt of Congress means
lawmakers would effectively be formally accusing the White House of a crime, which would then be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for consideration. Russert asked Leahy this morning, "Are you sure the U.S. Attorney would prosecute?" The chairman responded, "Well, I think it'd be very difficult for him not to."
Video of the interview at Crooks & Liars
Wikipedia, as usual, has some helpful information
about contempt of Congress. First, there is "inherent contempt," in which a person can be held by the authority of only one chamber. This person can legally be arrested, presented to the House that brought the charge and even imprisoned.
What Leahy was talking about, then, is clearly "statutory contempt," which according to him requires both Houses acting in concert. The Wiki page doesn't say whether a simple or super majority is required. Of course, the House can easily come up with a simple majority to hold Bush, Gonzales and the rest in contempt, but the in the Senate I just don't see that happening. Lieberman will never vote against his pal Bushie, and the GOP is still so tied to Bush that any Republican who votes in favor of holding him in contempt might as well switch parties, because he or she won't survive the next primary anyway.
At least there is a process by which Congress can strike at the administration, which is badly needed. Unfortunately, the White House knows that the Democratic majority in the Senate is non-existant when it comes to votes like this. I suspect that Congress will back down, correctly thinking that they won't actually be able to compel Bush to do anything. What the Democratic leadership won't consider, I'm afraid, is that they actually can go ahead and bring contempt charges up to a vote, letting the country see clearly who stands with Bush.