House panel approves subpoenas for Secretary Rice
In a meeting considering the issuing of a series of subpoenas by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday, the chairman said he had hit a "brick wall" in dealing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"We have hit a brick wall with the Secretary of State," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). "She will not propose a date to testify, she will not agree to testify, and she insists that our Committee be satisfied with partial information that was previously submitted to other committees."
In a second hearing room, according to AP, "the full House Judiciary Committee voted 32-6 to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, Gonzales' White House liaison, for her testimony on why the administration fired eight federal prosecutors. The panel also unanimously approved but did not issue a subpoena to compel her to appear." (Full AP story here.)
Waxman's remark came in a fractious hearing on issuing three subpoenas. One sought Rice's testimony on May 15 concerning the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. The other two concerned the deletion of e-mails on accounts supplied by the Republican National Committee and used by White House employees and RNC documents concerning the use of the General Services Administration to assist Republican political efforts.
All three subpoenas were agreed to by the Committee. Waxman attempted to show that his willingness to take a vote was a new direction for the Oversight Committee.
"Under the rules of this Committee, the Chairman has the power to issue subpoenas without debate or votes in the Committee. That is what Dan Burton used to do. In fact, that is what he did over 1,000 times," he said. "But I am taking a different approach today. I believe the entire Committee should have a chance to participate in the subpoenas we will consider today."
The committee's Republicans put in a feisty performance, raising procedural objections to the conduct of the hearing and then bringing up amendments to the subpoenas in question. One amendment, from Rep. John Mica (R-FL), would have required testimony from former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, who was convicted of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material last year. The second, from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-FL), would have ordered the Democratic National Committee to turn over e-mails that may have been linked to the Clinton White House.
They also escalated the political rhetoric in the hearing.
"I begin to feel like we're in Russia," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), referring to the committee's effort to produce information from the Republican National Committee, and the expense that would result for the national Republican Party due to cooperating with the subpoena. "You're using government resources as we speak. I don't know if there's anyone on the other side of the aisle who's thinking about this, but you should."
A statement issued Wednesday by RNC Chairman Mike Duncan made a similar argument, and suggested he'd be digging in his heels.
"The Democrats on Capitol Hill have made it clear: they will stop at nothing short of the entire Republican National Committee playbook for 2008 in their search for documents," Duncan said in a statement on the RNC's website. "You don't see the New York Yankees giving the Boston Red Sox their signs before a crucial series and I wont be giving our equivalent to Howard Dean."
Waxman responded to the allegation in few words.
"You may feel like you're in a Stalinist county, but it was your chairman who issued more than 1,000 subpoenas," the Chairman remarked.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), the former chairman in question, who still sits on the committee, responded testily to the charges about his tenure.
"You were the ranking Democrat at the time, and you rightfully objected," he said to Waxman. "But we had to try to get to the truth, there were all kinds of allegations of wrongdoing, and people were saying they witnessed illegal campaign contributions coming into the White House."
Later, when discussing the subpoena of the Secretary of State, Shays suggested to the Committee's Democrats that there would be electoral consequences from their political oversight activities.
"The same thing will happen to you that happened to us the American people will say 'we're fed up' and vote you out of office," the Connecticut Republican argued.
All of the Republican members' procedural motions and amendments were subsequently defeated by the Committee's Democrats on a vote or overruled by the chairman on procedural grounds.