Not so long ago, members of Congress put the rule of law above partisan politics and loyalty to the White House.
By Vincent Rossmeier | Salon.com, November 26, 2007
AP Photo: Rep. Lawrence Hogan, R-Md., speaks on the Nixon impeachment question before the House Judiciary Committee on July 25, 1974. Listening at right is Rep. Caldwell Butler, R-Va.
During the past six years, leading Republicans in Congress have prioritized allegiance to a Republican president above all other governmental and constitutional concerns. But there was a time when U.S. lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, actually voted the way of their conscience. There was a time when a president could not break the law or ignore a summons from Congress with impunity. Indeed, by the height of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, a number of congressmen — including Republicans staunchly loyal to their party — acted to uphold the law and make Nixon accountable.
Today, the main concern of lawmakers seems to be the preservation of power and the entitlements that come with it. Republican allies of the White House have blocked congressional investigations into the Bush administration’s alleged misdeeds, including illegal spying on Americans’ phone calls. In 2006, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Pat Roberts, R-Kan., thwarted an investigation into warrantless eavesdropping by the National Security Agency. While serving as chairman of the Judiciary Committee prior to the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006, Arlen Specter, R-Pa., though a vocal critic of the spying, failed to initiate any investigations into Bush’s wiretapping program, despite ample evidence that it violated the existing FISA laws. Meanwhile, top Democrats, including Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Dianne Feinstein of California, have shown a willingness to cave into Bush’s demands, including retroactive immunity for American telecom companies that assisted the government’s spying.