Beltway Happenings
March 12, 2006--Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) answers reporters' questions after an appearance on ABC News' "This Week" during which he announced he will introduce a resolution to censure President George W. Bush.
"You know you don't do this lightly, but the grounds are very clear.  The president of the United States has admitted that he established this domestic wiretapping program without following the law of this country.  He admitted it doesn't come under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  So the president has basically said the law that the Congress has passed and that presidents have signed in the past doesn't fit my ideas.  I'm just going to make up my own law.  Congress can't allow that.  And this is an appropriate occasion to censure the president.  Say: Mr. President, we condemn you for violating the law.  It isn't an impeachment proceeding but it says that we still believe in the rule of law and the president needs to follow that.  It's very important that we do that for our nation, for our system of government."

Question: Why censure?  Why not go as far as impeachment?

"Well I think this is the right first step.  First of all trying to find out what this program was.  We're trying to figure out if the law that we have right now does an adequate job.  And there'll be more to say about this, more to do to have accountability, but what we do know now, what is very clear is there is no legitimate legal basis for what the president has done.  So it's as simple as this.  The president of the United States intentionally, conciously broke the law, and we have to take a first step.  The censure resolution acknowledges that, reasserts Congress' role as a protector of the Constitution.  We took the oath of office just like the president did.  He violated his oath.  We violate our oath if we don't uphold the law by passing some sort of resolution."

Question: And have you heard from any of your colleagues?  Are you hoping for a vote on this?  And are you concerned that this increase greater partisanship within the Congress?

"You know I haven't had a chance to talk to my colleagues about it.  I just introduced it a few minutes ago.  But I believe this is a way to have a bipartisan solution.  There's talk of impeachment and other remedies I think would obviously cause a lot of partisan divide.  This is a chance for people on both sides of the aisle--and by the way many Republican Senators have said basically that they agree, the president violated the law--this is a chance for us all to come together in both parties say Mr. President, we know you're trying to do the right thing for the country, you probably had good intentions here but you violated the law, so we need you to acknowledge that.  And by censuring the president we put it on the historical record that the president cannot make up his own laws.

Later in the day Tracey Schmitt, RNC Press Secretary, issued a statement in response to Feingold's call for censure:

"Sen. Feingold's out of touch attack demonstrates, once again, that Democrats are willing to play politics with the most important issue facing the American people.  Attempting to harness angry partisanship for short-term political gain does nothing to make America safer and everything to detract from President Bush's continued efforts to aggressively fight the War on Terror.  Not only is Senator Feingold's approach a disservice to those who work tirelessly to protect America, it sends the wrong message to our enemies."


Sen. Russ Feingold
Progressive Patriots Fund
Copyright © 2006  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action