- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

Congressional Democrats say Sen. Russell D. Feingold’s move to censure President Bush for authorizing warrantless surveillance is a distraction from their quest to take back Congress in the fall.

“Every time we get in a great strategic position, we manage to energize the Republican base,” Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, told The Washington Times.

“Everything is going well for the Democrats and President Bush is tanking in the polls, and then Russ Feingold comes up with the idea of censure, which is going to go nowhere and is not just quixotic but is somewhat self-serving,” he said.

Mr. Moran’s comments echoed a theme used by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last week during a briefing with reporters.

The California Democrat said that Republicans want censure to become an election issue to make the minority party look bad and that she would not support censuring the president.

“I have no idea why anybody would censure someone before they have an investigation,” she said. “Why doesn’t everybody just channel their energy into winning the election?”

The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said it is too soon to make a decision about censuring Mr. Bush for his approval of domestic warrantless surveillance to investigate terror suspects.

“It’s valuable that Senator Feingold is moving us forward to finally be a catalyst to have the kind of hearings and the kind of deliberations as to what lies behind this warrantless wiretap situation,” said Mr. Durbin on “Fox News Sunday.” “We have a responsibility to ask the hard questions, to find out what the nature of the program is and whether the president violated the law.”

Already, the Republican National Committee seized on the censure effort put forth by Mr. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, last week.

“Sen. Feingold has become a hero again amongst the out-of-the mainstream liberal Democrat base,” reads a release on GOP.com.

Mr. Feingold defended his efforts and accused his party members of “cowering,” saying Mr. Bush has broken the law and has lied to Congress for ordering the eavesdropping within the United States.

“All Americans want to fight terrorism and protect our country from those who wish to do us harm, but they don’t want to sacrifice the rights and principles our country was founded upon,” Mr. Feingold said. “One of those fundamental American principles is that the president doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws he follows.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, defended the wiretapping as a vital national security tactic.

Other Republicans dismissed Mr. Feingold’s censure resolution as a “political stunt.” Mr. Frist tried to force a floor vote on the measure, bypassing the Senate Judiciary Committee, but, Senate Democrats have refused to allow that.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the censure effort should go through the proper committee channels before it comes to the Senate floor. He praised Mr. Feingold as a “man of principle.”

“The Judiciary Committee should hold hearings on this, so that the American people and Congress can find out what’s going on with the program,” he told reporters last week. “I’m going to wait until the committee does its work.”

“People should cool their jets and let the process take its course.”

Mr. Moran said the censure measure put forth by Mr. Feingold has no chance of being considered by the Republican-controlled House or Senate, “So why do it?”

“You can find lots of reasons to censure President Bush, but we have no power to do so,” Mr. Moran said. However, two Democratic senators — Barbara Boxer of California and Tom Harkin of Iowa — added their names to Mr. Feingold’s censure resolution.

“We have an out-of-control president whose arrogant and, now, illegal behavior is running our country into the ditch,” Mr. Harkin says on his Web site. “It’s time to rein him in.”

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