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Leahy, Jeffords support hearings on Feingold censure proposal

Vermont’s two senators, Democrat Patrick Leahy and Independent Jim Jeffords, believe that hearings should be held on the Bush administration’s secret domestic wiretapping program before a censure vote is held.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, has introduced a resolution calling for censure, accusing Pres. George Bush of violating the Constitution and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Few Democrats have openly come out in support of the measure.

“Sen. Feingold says he intended his resolution to prompt congressional investigations into the president’s actions on these issues. Republican leaders so far have been reluctant to allow that,” said David Carle, a Leahy spokesman. “Sen. Leahy believes in first things first, and the first thing is Congress doing its oversight duty in investigating the Bush administration’s illegal domestic wiretapping.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee, on which both Leahy and Feingold sit, have held two hearings on the domestic surveillance program.

Jeffords “would like to have hearings on the resolution,” said Diane Derby, a spokeswoman.

On Jan. 20, Leahy introduced a resolution that would put the Senate on record refuting Pres. Bush’s assertion that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed before the invasion of Afghanistan, authorized warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, Carle added.

“Both the Feingold and Leahy resolutions have been referred to the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Leahy has been pushing for full congressional investigations and oversight of the issues that both resolutions address,” said Carle.

Feingold’s resolution reads, in part:

“Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required.”

Feingold’s resolution states censure is warranted by Bush’s “failure to inform the full congressional intelligence committees as required by law, and his efforts to mislead the American people about the authorities relied upon by his administration to conduct wiretaps and about the legality of the program.”

The only president ever censured by the Senate was Andrew Jackson, in 1834, for removing the nation's money from a private bank in defiance of the Whig-controlled Senate. In 1999, Senate Republicans tried but failed to bring a censure resolution against Pres. Bill Clinton after he was acquitted by the Senate on House impeachment charges that he committed perjury and obstructed justice.

Feingold was the lone senator to oppose the 2001 Patriot Act. Two weeks ago, he was joined by Jeffords, Leahy and seven other senators in opposing a renewal of the law with some new curbs on police powers.

Posted March 20, 2006

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