House passes contempt citations for Bush aides
Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday February 14, 2008

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Republican walk-out to protest vote

Democrats passed contempt of Congress citations against two Bush administration figures Thursday after the charges had spent months in limbo.

On a vote of 223-to-32 House Democrats succeeded in passing the contempt charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers, after Republicans walked out in protest.

House Republicans staged a walk-out Thursday afternoon to protest the contempt vote and the failure by the chamber's majority members to bow to President Bush's demands on a controversial spying law. (Video below)

"We will not stand here and watch this floor be abused for pure political grandstanding at the expense of our national security. ... Let's just get up and leave," Republican Leader John Boehner advised his colleagues as they dramatically left the floor Thursday afternoon.

The walkout followed a series of GOP disruptions Thursday, including a vote scheduled in the middle of a memorial service for Rep. Tom Lantos, who passed away this week.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer took the floor to rebut Boehner's actions, chastising the Republicans for voting en mass against a measure to give the House more time to work on updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And he took aim at President Bush for trying to stoke national security fears to force quick action from the House.

"Every one of us wants to keep America and Americans safe," he said, eliciting applause from Democrats remaining in the chamber. "Not one of us wants to subject America or Americans to danger. The president's assertion is wrong."

Hoyer noted that the House has only had since Tuesday night to consider the final surveillance law passed by the Senate, and he accused the president of creating a false sense of urgency to provoke quick action and preclude the full legislative process.

"It is somewhat ironic that on the one hand they say we ought to be doing something, and on the other hand they walk out to preclude us from doing our business," Hoyer said after the GOP walkout.

As much satisfaction as Bush administration critics will get out of the contempt citations, which were approved by the Judiciary Committee last July, finally getting the endorsement of the full House, it is unlikely that they would lead to prosecution any time soon. Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently told Congress he would not prosecute the contempt charges because Bolten and Miers were following Bush's order that they not appear.

Speaking before he had led his GOP colleagues from the floor, Boehner accused the Democrats of playing political games by considering contempt citations before passing a long-term FISA update.

A House bill to update FISA passed in October, but it did not include a provision to give legal immunity to telecommunications companies. Bush has said he would veto anything without telecom immunity. The Senate took him seriously enough to include the "amnesty" provisions in its bill, which passed Tuesday.

The contempt citations against Bolten and Miers resulted from their failing to respond to congressional subpoenas for information on the 2006-2007 firings of federal prosecutors.

"This is not a confrontation we have sought, and is one we are still hoping to avoid," Rep. John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said earlier Thursday. "However, I believe on the merits our case is quite strong. Unlike other disputes involving executive privilege, the President has never personally asserted privilege, the Committee has never been given a privilege log, and there is no indication the President was ever personally involved in the termination decisions."

The action, which Democrats have been threatening for six months, was the latest wrinkle in a more than yearlong probe. The citations charge Miers with failing to testify and accuse both her and Bolten of refusing Congress' demands for documents in the investigation.

Thursday's vote was the first time in 25 years that a full chamber of Congress has voted on a contempt of Congress citation.

(with wire reports)

This video is from C-SPAN 1, broadcast February 14, 2008.

This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast February 14, 2008.

GOP House Leader John Boehner speaks about FISA legislation

This video is from MSNBC's News Live, broadcast February 14, 2008.