[JURIST] Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) [official website] said Sunday on ABC's This Week that he plans to introduce a censure resolution [text, PDF; Feingold fact sheet] in the US Senate Monday condemning President Bush for approving the National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping program [JURIST news archive] and then misinforming the public about the program's existence and legality. Feingold has argued that the program is in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text], which forbids wiretapping of citizens in the US without a warrant or a court order. Feingold asserted Sunday that the President's action in allowing warrantless wiretaps of terror suspects was an impeachable offense "right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors", but questioned whether removing the President from office would be right for the country at this time. Republican leaders have already responded to the proposal with derision. ABC News has more.
A censure resolution is a formal statement of disapproval by the Senate. Unlike impeachment, it has no formal legal impact but can be politically problematic. The Senate has only censured a President once - in 1834, members voted to censure President Andrew Jackson [US Senate backgrounder] for assuming power not granted by the Constitution in the context of the controversy over the failed Bank of the United States. After the political balance in the Senate changed, the censure motion was expunged in 1837. In 1999, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a resolution [text] to censure President Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal but the measure was blocked [AP report] after the Senate acquitted Clinton of perjury and obstruction of justice in his impeachment trial.