Democrats & Liberals Archives

Cheney Pushes the Boundaries - Again

Cheney is now arguing that “Congress has no authority over the Vice President.”

This comes through his attorney, Kathryn Wheelbarger, in response to a request that David Addington (Cheney's former Chief of Staff and legal counsel) testify before Congress regarding Cheney's involvement in approving torture.

This is certainly not the first time the White House has argued that staff are protected by Executive Privilege from testifying before Congress. In mid-July 2007, Bush extended the mantle of executive privilege to Josh Bolton and Harriet Miers who had been subpoenaed to testify regarding the dismissal of U.S. attorneys. At that time, it was argued that Bush had the right to deny Congress access to White House records, documents and staff.

This is consistent with the Bush administration structuring of the President as a "Unitary Executive." This is essentially an argument that the President of the United States has the authority to act unilaterally and without the oversight of Congress. The administration has crafted these powers largely through the use of thousands of executive signing statements, and by usurping powers without response from the Congress. The clearest statement of this "authority" was issued in an executive signing statement appended to the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005" - signed into law March 9, 2006. In part, that statement read:

The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

The executive branch shall construe section 756(e)(2) of H.R. 3199, which calls for an executive branch official to submit to the Congress recommendations for legislative action, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as he judges necessary and expedient.

Like the signing statements before and after it, the Congress did not challenge the administration on its overreaching grab for power.

The Unitary Executive theory of the Presidency does not extend to the Vice President - at least not according to anything I have read. Therefore, for Cheney to argue that Congress has no authority over him is not legitimate even under that illegitimate theory. What this does represent is the further carving out of aristocratic powers by the administration. Apparently Cheney feels that not only should the President/King be unfettered with checks and balances, but so too should the Vice President / Heir Apparent. His refusal to allow Addington to testify is a furthering of his arguments that the Vice President's office is a "hybrid" and therefore unfettered by Congress. An argument he made in 2007 to avoid releasing classified documents to Congress last year.

Last year, Congress voted to place both Bolton and Miers under contempt of Congress. As far as I know, that has had no consequences whatsoever. One assumes they will issue the same to Addington.

The claims of freedom from Congressional or Judicial oversight are a stalling tactic at this point. With the lack of speed with which the Congress has progressed, it is a tactic that is likely to work. Unfortunately, the fact that the Bush administration has been able to effectively rewrite the powers of the presidency will pass on to the next president - and on into the future. It has done more than set a precedent of presidential hubris. It may well have carved away the balance of powers.

See King Bush - The Unitary Executive for a more extended discussion of the Unitary Executive, and critical signing states Bush has employed.

Posted by Rowan Wolf at May 5, 2008 6:40 AM
Comment #252161

Your name changes but your writing style stays the same - no spaces after punctuation. Also, the father figure analogy has been around talk radio for some time; funny how you get the same feeling.

Posted by: Schwamp at May 5, 2008 10:21 AM
Comment #252163

This is consistent with the Bush administration structuring of the President as a “Unitary Executive.”

Rowan, Cheney’s arguments have nothing to do with the Unitary Executive; he argued that the Vice President is not a part of the Executive Branch when the National Archives (a part of the Executive) came a calling.

Cheney has taken it upon himself to re-define the office of VP as Nixon had done some 40 years earlier. It will be interesting to see the eventual Democratic nominee’s pick for VP. Will he/she go with the Cheney model of an advisor and active participant in the Whitehouse or will they go with the previous model of “not worth a pitcher of warm piss” irrelevance and merely a springboard to the Presidency in years to come.

Posted by: George in SC at May 5, 2008 11:16 AM
Comment #252165

You should watch how you throw out “father figure.” You might just strike a nerve. Cheney, like my father is a mean and brutal individual. My father killed a man an went to prison for manslaughter. Unlike, Cheney, he had to face the consequences of his actions. Fair is fair don’t you think?

Posted by: Rowan at May 5, 2008 11:20 AM
Comment #252175

Heh. The last time Cheney tried this, the Democrats in Congress noted that they had not authorized funding for a separate branch, and threatened to cut off his funding if he didn’t stuff a sock in it. I guess at this point he has enough appropriated funds in the bank to get through the next 8 months without talking to Congress, so he’s cutting himself off from the rest of the world, once and for all.

He’s weirdly disassociated. He keeps making bizarre statements which have little relation to reality, and predictions that have no chance whatsoever of coming true. He just gave a speech in Tulsa May 3rd with the usual oddness included.

Well, he’ll be gone soon, thank goodness.

Posted by: phx8 at May 5, 2008 1:13 PM
Comment #252180

You dems are falling right into Bush’s trap…He has an elaborate plan to keep you from passing any kind of legislation. Bush knows that any legislation passed by this congress will have a negative impact. So he has tricked you into going after different people and wasting time and energy. He knows that you Dems are power hungry and anytime someone looks you in the eyes and calls your bluff, you go beserk…(even within your own party)

It’s working…

Posted by: williamIN at May 5, 2008 1:53 PM
Comment #252186

There is no elaborate plan, nothing more complicated than Republican vetos, filibusters, and motions to recommit. The current crop of congressional Republicans has already set the record for the number of filibusters, and they still have 8 months to go.

That’s fine. That is the strategy Republicans have chosen to pursue. Voters soundly rejected Republicans in the 2006 midterms. It was quite a thrashing. Given this strategy, why would anyone expect 2008 to be different. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to a Democratic president and supermajorities in the House and Senate. It will be close, but I think supermajorities are possible. Hope you enjoy it!

Posted by: phx8 at May 5, 2008 2:38 PM
Comment #252188

Phx8 is right WilliamIN, so I suggest you start stashing cash and getting rid of as much debt as you possibly can.
Say goodbye to the money you earn, your individual rights and freedoms (whats left of them anyways) and get prepared. The American way of life is getting ready to change big time, and not for the better.

Posted by: kctim at May 5, 2008 3:16 PM
Comment #252197


You may get one super-majority, But you won’t get the White House… People are starting to understand what you’re all about.

AND if your still feeling lucky, start paying ahead on your ‘09 taxes now and get a jump on your increases.

BTW, it was hardly a thrashing… Now, Clinton got thrashed in ‘04… look it up and compare…

Posted by: williamIN at May 5, 2008 5:20 PM
Comment #252198

Rowan wrote: “Cheney is now arguing that “Congress has no authority over the Vice President.”

And Cheney would be absolutely correct as long as this group of gutless wonders called Democrats are in the Congress. It really is a nightmarish state of affairs when Republicans in Congress won’t hold Republicans responsible, and the Democrats won’t either, for fear of upsetting the election apple cart.

Ergo, the Incumbents of both parties toss the law and Constitution out the window and the needs of the nation and American people right along side them. If Democrats had any love of the Constitution, they would make the first order of business under a new Democratic Administration the issuance of dozens of arraignments and indictments for Bush, Cheney, and 10 or so others who exempted themselves from the laws and Constitution they knowingly violated for political and power advantages. This last 7 years has been some of the Founders worst nightmares realized.

But a great majority of the incumbent Congress is corrupt as well and hence, will not invite stone throwing from their own glass houses.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 5, 2008 5:32 PM
Comment #252222

Didn’t Agnew try to claim executive privilege when he was on the ropes? They deep sixed him to pave the way for Gerald Ford, which was probably a pretty good idea. Cheney should be in prison next year, or everyone else who is in prison for anything less should get out.

Posted by: ohrealy at May 5, 2008 8:57 PM
Comment #252261


I agree that there is not much oversight in Washington, but what about the flipside? Conyers has been abusing the power of the Congressional subpoena for 8 years now to the point where I don’t think there’s a Republican left in Washington who hasn’t received one. Hasn’t he done as much damage to the system by starting up hearings every other news cycle?

Posted by: George in SC at May 6, 2008 9:06 AM
Comment #252284

George in SC, do the American people have sufficient light and insight into the activities and behaviors of their representatives in government? If the answer is no, then, more oversight and dissemination of those investigatory results has to be a good thing for our nation and the relationship between government and the people, on net.

It is a good thing when investigations reveal nothing untoward taking place, is it not? And just as important when investigations reveal a subversion of the design or intent of our Constitution and its prescriptions for how those in government are to conduct their actions.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 6, 2008 4:12 PM
Comment #252517


Thanks for bring attention to this important topic - again. Cheney has worked hard to extend the power of the Presidency. If he succeeds in this however, he will create the possibility and reality that an out of control VP could become a government within a government. If the President’s powers are extended to the level of virtual kingship, a VP completely beyond the rule of law, could have powers equivalent to the emperor to which the king pays tribute. The President could be reduced to puppet king while the VP becomes puppet master because if Congress has “no authority” over the VP, then who does. The Supreme Court only rules on Constitional issues. We think that the VP works for the President, but where does it say that? Congress still has some authority over the President, if Congress has “no authority” over the VP then he is actually more powerful, at least in that regard. Clearly, these dogs are salivating for full blown fascist dictatorship.

Posted by: Ray Guest at May 9, 2008 10:49 AM
Comment #252602

Ray, gotta love those Constitutional checks and balances, unless you are a politician constrained by them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2008 4:03 PM
Comment #252603

Ray, gotta love those Constitutional checks and balances, unless you are a politician constrained by them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2008 4:07 PM
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