March 31, 2006

Senate panel set to consider bid to censure Bush

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White House counsel John
Dean, who helped push President Richard Nixon from office
during the Watergate scandal three decades ago, heads to
Capitol Hill on Friday to back an uphill attempt to censure
President George W. Bush.

Dean, author of a book about Bush titled "Worse than
Watergate," was to testify before the Senate Judiciary
Committee in support of a resolution to rebuke Bush for a
domestic spying program introduced secretly after the September
11 attacks.

Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, introduced the
resolution earlier this month.

He argues that the program, which allows eavesdropping on
international telephone calls and e-mails involving Americans
when one party is suspected of links with terrorism, violates
the law because it is conducted without court warrants.

Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania
Republican, contends there are no grounds for censure, but has
agreed to hold the hearing to debate the matter.

"I think that there's absolutely no merit in it, and that
the hearing will expose it because of the president's broad
(constitutional) authority," Specter said.

Feingold's censure resolution has rallied the support of a
number of liberal groups, but it has also galvanized
conservatives in support of the embattled war-time president.

Republicans have dismissed the resolution as a political
stunt, while many Democrats have distanced themselves from it
as they jockey for position for the November congressional

So far, just two of Feingold's 43 fellow Senate Democrats,
Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barbara Boxer of California, have
co-sponsored his resolution.

Nixon became the first president to resign from office in
August 1974 after a congressional impeachment investigation
aided by Dean, who had earlier been his White House counsel.

The Judiciary Committee will decide whether to send the
censure resolution against Bush to the Republican-led Senate
where it seems to have virtually no chance of being approved.

The Senate has censured a president, which amounts to a
formal rebuke, only once before and that was Andrew Jackson in
1834 in a banking dispute.

Dean was one of five witnesses called to testify before the
Judiciary Committee -- two by Democrats, three by Republicans.