John Ashcroft's First Year as Attorney General

Subverting the Legislative Process

In the same way that the substance of Ashcroft's bill demonstrated a clear disregard for judicial oversight, the way he attempted to ram the bill through Congress evidenced his disrespect and disregard for the role of the Congress.

First, he proposed mammoth and sweeping legislation with a demand that Congress pass the bill within three days.30 He was in effect asking for Congress to give him free rein without giving any serious consideration to the impact of his proposed legislation or to the intelligence failures that may have allowed the Sept. 11 plans to go undetected.

When some members of Congress from both parties resisted that timetable and began to hold hearings, Ashcroft attempted to bully Congress into rubber stamping the administration's proposals by suggesting publicly that if members of Congress did not swiftly pass the bill they would be helping to make America susceptible to future attacks.

The political pressure generated by the attorney general contributed to Senate passage of the legislation after just four hours of debate, the bill having bypassed a separate committee vote.31 In the House, Judiciary Committee members from both parties unanimously endorsed a compromise that was hammered out through extensive bipartisan negotiation and public hearings, but the bill was jettisoned on the House floor by GOP leaders under pressure from the administration and replaced with a bill more to the administration's liking.32

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