WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday pushed back against congressional investigations of administration activities, saying lawmakers should spend more time passing laws to solve domestic problems.
Last week, in a constitutional showdown with Congress, the Bush administration claimed executive privilege and rejected demands for White House documents about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. The Senate Judiciary Committee has set a deadline of 10 a.m. EDT Monday for the White House to explain its basis for claiming executive privilege.
The administration has not said when or if it will respond. But presidential spokesman Scott Stanzel noted Thursday that the White House has received a flurry of inquires since Democrats took control of Congress in January, and has turned over some 200,000 pages of documents.
"They've launched over 300 investigations, had over 350 requests for documents and interviews, and they have had over 600 oversight hearings in just about 100 days," Stanzel said. "So that's about six oversight hearings a day."
The assertion of executive privilege was the latest turn in an increasingly hostile standoff between the administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the Iraq war, executive power, the war on terror and Vice President Dick Cheney's authority. A day earlier, the Judiciary Committee delivered subpoenas to the offices of Bush, Cheney, the national security adviser and the Justice Department about the administration's warrantless wiretapping program.
In a letter to Congress last Thursday, White House counsel Fred Fielding told Congress that the administration has rejected subpoenas for documents through a claim of executive privilege. That letter also made it clear that neither former presidential counsel Harriet Miers nor former White House political director Sara Taylor would testify next week, as directed by the subpoenas.
Stanzel stopped short of accusing Congress of being overzealous in its oversight role.
"I would say they have a lot to show in terms of activity and requests and letter-writing, and that sort of thing," he said, "but not much to show in the way of real legislation — whether it's legislation on health care, education, comprehensive immigration reform."
"All of those things are important issues that we think the American people care about and would like to see Congress move forward on."