House Democrats are poised to push a vote to hold White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt of Congress. Sound familiar? If so, that’s because congressional Dems have been vowing to hold Bolten and Miers to account since last July, when the pair blew off subpoenas compelling them to testify before Congress in connection with the U.S. Attorneys scandal. More than six months later, we’re still waiting for the Dems’ promised constitutional showdown with the White House.
In late July, the day after the House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize contempt citations against Bolten and Miers, Roll Call reported that the Democrats, citing “the busy House schedule,” would hold off on advancing the measure until after the August recess. After House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers offered a “final warning” to the White House in early November, a vote was briefly scheduled for the middle of that month, then quickly postponed until December. Sure enough, December came and went with no House contempt vote (though, the Senate Judiciary Committee finally got around to voting on and approving contempt citations for Bolten and Karl Rove). In January, with contempt supposedly at the top of their agenda, the Democratic leadership again put off dealing with the politically thorny issue, citing their need to hammer out an economic stimulus package with the administration.
That brings us to today, when a number of news outlets are reporting that the House could vote on the contempt citations as early as tomorrow. This afternoon, Conyers introduced two resolutions related to the contempt proceedings, one of which would allow the Judiciary Committee to file suit in federal court if Attorney General Michael Mukasey refuses to enforce contempt charges, as he has already threatened to do. So perhaps the Democrats are moving forward on contempt charges after all. That said, don’t be terribly surprised if there’s a last minute delay—or if the looming brouhaha with the White House ends without the Dems delivering the hoped for blow to the administration’s expansion of executive power.