WASHINGTON – Democratic senators on Sunday chided Vice President Dick Cheney for declaring his office exempt from sections of a presidential order involving matters of national security. Republicans, more cautiously, said the matter deserves review.
At issue is a requirement that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify. That information is to be provided to the Information Security Oversight Office at The National Archives.
The White House contends that Cheney is complying properly. They say the presidential order was not intended to treat the vice president's office as an executive branch "agency," and therefore Cheney's office is exempt from the reporting requirement.
"The vice president is saying he's above the law, and the fact of the matter is, legal scholars are going to say this is preposterous," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called Cheney's move "the height of arrogance." She said it might not be a bad idea — as some other Democrats have suggested — that money for Cheney's office be held up until he decides whether or not he's in the executive branch.
"I find this just amazing," she said.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., countered that conflicts between the White House and Congress over jurisdictional bounds are not unusual.
"Let the courts decide if there's something wrong here," he said.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was asked in January to resolve the legal dispute, but he has not yet ruled on the issue.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, is investigating the matter.
"I don't think that the vice president, with all due respect to everyone, is saying that the law doesn't apply to him or that he's above the law," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. "I think there are some legal interpretations. We have to look at those."
Feinstein and Lott appeared on "FOX News Sunday." Wyden and Hutchison spoke on a cable news channel.