by Kagro X
Yes, the first shot in the Subpoena Wars of the 110th Congress has been fired. Only, guess who's been hit?
That's right. The target of the first subpoena exchanged between the Democratic legislative branch and the GOP executive branch is... House Democrats.
At the House Appropriations Committee, the new chairman, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), had no sooner sat down and given his gavel a couple of test whacks before he was handed a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego demanding thousands of documents by January 11th. Even though prosecutors nailed Duke Cunningham, they continue to pursue the hanging threads of the investigation -- namely whether the defense contractors who bribed him had their hooks into other lawmakers and/or staffers.
All well and good, of course. Got to get to the bottom of things, after all. But note that (according to subscription-only Roll Call), they're asking the wrong guys:
“To ask us to produce that stuff by [Jan. 11] is ridiculous given the fact that we haven’t taken over yet and every record that we’re talking about is a Republican record so I have no idea what the documents are and it’s a Republican problem.... We will try to cooperate, but it’s a Republican problem.”
Now that Democrats are in the majority, of course, requests for access to committee records have to go through Democrats.
And since Duke Cunningham did most of his dirty work on behalf of defense contractors, that'll mean that the Defense appropriations subcommittee will be busiest complying with the request.
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), the chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, said he intends to block funding for any escalation plan.
[Pelosi] said the House defense appropriations subcommittee, led by her close ally Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., will conduct vigorous oversight when the Bush administration soon proposes its next special spending program for the war, expected to total about $100 billion.
In subpoena wars, there are a few basic tricks available to frustrate the purpose of the other side. If you're issuing the subpoenas, you can flood your opponents' offices with demand after demand, burying their staff in an endless stream of pointless work. If you're the target of the subpoenas, you can flood your opponents' offices with document after document, and make them sort the wheat from the chaff.
Of course, it may very well be that Democratic Appropriations staff would normally want to do everything possible to help investigators pry into the remaining nooks and crannies of the Cunningham case. But they'll also want to be able to keep their eye on the Iraq ball, which is what their boss will be demanding.
Keep this first shot in mind when the White House and their apologists among the ranks of Republican legislators start crying about the complexities and distractions created by Congressional subpoenas issued by Democrats.
By that time, Republicans will claim to have forgotten all about this first strike. Or more likely, simply claim there's no relationship between the two, this first subpoena having come from the U.S. Attorney's office.
Which I guess will be a signal that it's time for us to celebrate the death of the "unitary executive." Huzzah!