Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin just sent this letter to her colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Please phone your representative about it.
Executive Branch Accountability from Progressive Caucus member Tammy Baldwin
January 22, 2009
This week, President Barack Obama stood before the American people and took an oath of office to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Along with this oath, it is my hope that he will take the actions detailed in legislation I plan to introduce, the Executive Branch Accountability Act of 2009, which I believe will help in his work to restore the public’s faith in our government.
Over the past several years, serious questions have been raised about the conduct of high ranking Bush/Cheney Administration officials in relation to some of the most basic elements of our democracy: respect for the rule of law, the principle of checks and balances, and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The list of abuses of executive branch power is long, as are the Bush/Cheney Administration’s attempts to impede congressional oversight.
President Obama has already begun the work or reaffirming American values of justice and freedom. I commend him for announcing his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and nominating a candidate for Attorney General who understands torture has no place in our great nation. I believe part of President Obama’s effort to renew America must include restoring executive branch accountability, and that he can take some simple steps to proactively prevent any further abuses of executive branch power by his or future administrations.
I invite my colleagues to join me in calling on President Obama to reverse the damaging and illegal actions taken by the Bush/Cheney Administration and to collaborate with Congress to proactively prevent any further abuses of executive branch power. Below, I have included an article by John Nichols published in The Nation on the need to reaffirm our nations’ commitment to the rule of law. If you have any questions, please contact Amber Shipley on my staff at 5-2906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member of Congress
Now’s the Time for Congress to Demand Executive Accountability
By John Nichols, The Nation
The 111th Congress is already busy reviewing and confirming President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet picks. The Senate intends to complete hearings for most if not all of the nominees by the time Obama takes office Jan. 20.
The Washington press corps will be so busy preparing how-to-get-around-the-inaugural-crowds-info-graphics that little energy will be expended on the hearings. And little in the way of news is likely: A barely functional Republican opposition will ask some appropriately tough questions of Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder ("Now, about Marc Rich") and there may even be some tough questions from Democrats for Obama's economic team ("Um, you were employed by Henry Kissinger for how many years?").
A Founding Father seeking evidence of the checks and balances so carefully constructed to guard against executive tyranny would be hard-pressed to discover them in the Washington of 2009.
This is not Obama's fault. He inherits executive powers so massively inflated by his predecessors George II and Prince Regent Dick that even he has said they must be diminished.
But presidents are not in the business of defining downward the authority vested in them. That is Congress' job.