Nancy Pelosi (center) meets volunteers and immigrants at a citizenship workshop in San Francisco. Chronicle photo by Kurt RogersSFGate.com reports:
Congress this week will take the next step to force the Bush administration to hand over information about the dismissal of U.S. attorneys and the politicization of the Justice Department, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday.
The House Judiciary Committee will bring contempt of Congress charges against the administration this week, said the San Francisco Democrat. She did not specify who the subject of the action would be, but Pelosi spokesman, Brendan Daly, said later it would be former White House counsel Harriet Miers, who defied a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to appear.
"They have disregarded the call of Congress for information about their politicizing the Department of Justice. We can document that. Those are actual facts and we will bring the contempt of Congress forth," said Pelosi, who spoke with reporters at a San Francisco workshop for people who want to become U.S. citizens.
She also addressed criticism of the farm bill and reiterated her opposition to impeaching President Bush.
Lawmakers have increasingly put pressure on the administration to share documents and records -- and for officials to testify, under oath, in front of Congress -- about why nine U.S. attorneys, including Kevin Ryan in San Francisco, were dismissed from their jobs in December 2006.
Congress has for months been seeking information about which administration officials were involved in the dismissals of the attorneys. The White House, however, has claimed "executive privilege" for many of those requests, meaning the executive branch is free from oversight of the legislative and judiciary branches of the government in those instances. A House judiciary subcommittee has voted to reject such reasoning.
Contempt of Congress is defined by federal law as action that obstructs the work of Congress, including investigations. If both the White House and Congress stick to these positions, the matter could become a constitutional question for the courts to decide.
White House spokesman Rob Saliterman said such an action by the House Judiciary Committee shows an interest in "partisan attacks" above real finding of facts.
"It's unfortunate congressional Democrats are continuing on the course of confrontation," Saliterman said.
Pelosi also reiterated Saturday that she would not engage in what would perhaps be the biggest confrontation possible with the White House -- seeking the impeachment of Bush over the Iraq war.
The speaker said she had "no hesitation" criticizing the president about his handling of the war, but said there were more important priorities for lawmakers -- such as health care and creating jobs -- than the divisive pursuit of impeachment.
"Look, it's hard enough for us to end the war. I don't know how we would be successful in impeaching the president," Pelosi said.
She did note that calls for the president's removal are not coming just from San Francisco.
"I'm not unsympathetic to the concern people have -- I hear it all over the country. People here have said to me, 'Well, people on the left want the president to be impeached.' I hear it across the board across the country. It's not just the left," Pelosi said.
The speaker also addressed criticism that the version of the farm bill moving through the House does not go far enough with reforms. The bill, which Pelosi supports, is expected to be up for a vote by the House this week.
Bay Area food and environmental activists had formed a new coalition to compete with the traditional farm lobby on the bill. They wanted the bill to put more of a focus on diversity of crops, local farming and increasing fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches and the food stamp program.
Activists also wanted lawmakers to move money from subsidizing crops to environmental and nutrition programs.
Pelosi said she is "very proud" of the bill and that reforms were made in it that will shift the country's agricultural policies.
"It is a careful balance that I think says you're never going to see a farm bill that looks like past farm bills again," Pelosi said. "This one takes us into the future."