Friday, March 17, 2006

Dayton Criticizes Feingold

Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton strongly criticized fellow Democrat Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush over a warrantless surveillance program. "It's an overreaching step by someone who is grandstanding and running for president at the expense of his own party and his own country," Dayton said of Feingold, a Wisconsin senator and potential 2008 presidential candidate. "I think it's a very dangerous territory for the democracy that we have in this country to be playing around with those kinds of resolutions, without any consultations from his colleagues. I think it was irresponsible."
Senator Mark Dayton
Although Feingold has gotten a tepid response from Democrats, none has publicly blasted the proposal the way Dayton did. The assault was even more striking given that Dayton is one of Bush's harshest Senate critics. In a statement issued to The Associated Press, Feingold said, "I agree with what Senator Dayton said in January when he called the president's illegal wiretapping program an 'abuse of power.' Now it is up to senators to decide how to respond to that abuse of power. "The Senate has a responsibility to uphold the rule of law by condemning the president's decision to break the law and I hope my colleagues will listen to what their constituents think during the upcoming congressional recess." But Dayton said that although he disagrees with the White House assertion that Bush was authorized to sanction the warrantless surveillance program under his powers as commander in chief, the White House has at least made a "plausible case" that it was constitutional. Dayton said he and his Democratic colleagues were "blindsided" by Feingold's proposal. "For somebody who wants to lead our party and our nation, I think consultation and forewarning is a prerequisite to that kind of leadership," he said. Feingold's resolution condemns Bush's "unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required" by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. So far, only one senator, Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, has co-sponsored the resolution. "And, you know, given some other bills I've introduced, we're way ahead," Feingold joked at a news conference earlier in the day, referring to his propensity to be alone on some issues. Feingold said that no Democrat has asked him to withdraw the resolution. "A couple have said, 'Bad idea.' A couple have said, 'Excellent,"' Feingold said. Dayton said he had not spoken to Feingold about the resolution. For Dayton, who is not seeking re-election this year, it marked the second time in recent weeks that he has assailed a senator from a neighboring state. Last month, he accused Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., of engaging in a "despicable" violation of the public interest by pushing a railroad extension for DM&E, which had employed Thune as a lobbyist in 2003 and 2004.