Feingold resolutions for the censure of George W. Bush

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On March 13, 2006, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) sponsored a resolution in the U.S. Senate to censure President George W. Bush for ordering a warrantless domestic spying program. The resolution (S.Res.398) was co-sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), and did not receive a floor vote. In July, 2007, Feingold again moved to censure President Bush, this time targeting Vice President Cheney and others as well.[1] Feingold's second effort included two measures, one focusing on the war in Iraq, and the other on domestic issues like wiretapping.

2006 resolution

Text of resolution

Feingold's resolution declared:

"That the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, President of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, his failure to inform the full congressional intelligence committees as required by law, and his efforts to mislead the American people about the authorities relied upon by his Administration to conduct wiretaps and about the legality of the program.The full text of Feingold's censure measure can be viewed here.[2]

Feingold's arguments on the Senate floor

In his remarks before the Senate on March 13, 2006, Feingold argued:

  • "The President violated the law, ignored the Constitution and the other two branches of government, and disregarded the rights and freedoms upon which our country was founded. No one questions whether the government should wiretap suspected terrorists. Of course we should, and we can under current law. If there were a demonstrated need to change that law, Congress could consider that step. But instead the President is refusing to follow that law while offering the flimsiest of arguments to justify his misconduct. He must be held accountable for his actions."
  • "Not only did the President break the law, he also actively misled Congress and the American people about his actions, and then, when the program was made public, about the legality of the NSA program...He has fundamentally violated the trust of the American people."
  • "The President’s claims of inherent executive authority, and his assertions that the courts have approved this type of activity, are baseless...But it is one thing to make a legal argument that has no real support in the law. It is much worse to do what the President has done, which is to make misleading statements about what prior Presidents have done and what courts have approved, to try to make the public believe his legal arguments are much stronger than they are."
  • "None of the President’s arguments explains or excuses his conduct, or the NSA’s domestic spying program. Not one. It is hard to believe that the President has the audacity to claim that they do."
  • "Passing a resolution to censure the President is a way to hold this President accountable. A resolution of censure is a time-honored means for the Congress to express the most serious disapproval possible, short of impeachment, of the Executive’s conduct. It is different than passing a law to make clear that certain conduct is impermissible or to cut off funding for certain activities. Both of those alternatives are ways for Congress to affect future action. But when the President acts illegally, he should be formally rebuked. He should be censured."[3]

Reaction to the censure resolution

Republican hostility

According to CBS News, "there was an immediate outcry from Republicans. The Republican National Committee called it 'Feingold’s Folly' and accused the Democrats of 'playing politics with the most important issue facing the American people' and sending 'the wrong message to our enemies ....'"[4]

On March 13, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney "encouraged boos for Feingold at a fundraiser in Feingold’s home state of Wisconsin and dared other Democrats to support the resolution."[5] The White House dismissed Feingold's move as "politically motivated" and White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Feingold's move "has more to do with 2008 politics than anything else."[6]

Democratic silence

Democrats responded by largely ignoring the Feingold measure. According to CBS News, "the outcry from Republicans was matched by the sound of silence from the Democrats."[7] For example, following Feingold's introduction of the resolution, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said "I just don't have enough information" when asked if he would support the measure.[8]

In response to tepid Democratic response, on March 14, 2006, Feingold accused Senate Democrats of "cowering" to President Bush rather than actively rebuking him for his domestic spying program.[9]

2007 censure of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and others

In July, 2007, Feingold offered similar measures, this time expanding the targets and specificity of the censure resolutions. The first resolution would censure President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other officials for misleading the public about the Iraq war, and inadequately preparing for the war's aftermath.[10] The second resolution would Censure president Bush and reprimand Alberto Gonzales for domestic actions, such as a warrantless surveillance program.[11]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Klaus Marre, "Feingold calls for censure of Bush," The Hill, July 22, 2007.
  2. Thomas page on S.Res.398
  3. Senator Russ Feingold "Remarks of Senator Russ Feingold Introducing a Resolution to Censure President George W. Bush," March 13, 2006.
  4. Dotty Lynch, "Will Russ Feingold Stand Alone Again," CBS News, March 13, 2006.
  5. Dotty Lynch, "Will Russ Feingold Stand Alone Again," CBS News, March 13, 2006.
  6. Staff Reports, "The Note: Focused on Winning," ABC News, March 13, 2006.
  7. Dotty Lynch, "Will Russ Feingold Stand Alone Again," CBS News, March 13, 2006.
  8. Dana Milbank, "The Feingold Resolution and the Sound of Silence," Washington Post, June 15, 2006.
  9. Laurie Kellman, "Feingold Accuses Democrats of 'Cowering,'" Associated Press, 15 March, 2006.
  10. Staff Reports, "Sen. Feingold Proposes Censuring Bush," Associated Press accessed via the New York Times, July 22, 2007.
  11. Staff Reports, "Sen. Feingold Proposes Censuring Bush," Associated Press accessed via the New York Times, July 22, 2007.

External resources

  1. H.RES.436 Calls for Censure of the President, December 18, 2005.
  2. H.RES.437 Calls for Censure of the Vice President, December 18, 2005.
  3. H.RES.635. "Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment." Sponsor: Representative John Conyers, Jr. (MI-14), introduced December 18, 2005. Cosponsors (31). Latest Major Action: December 18, 2005: Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Rules.

External articles