Senate Holds Rare Closed Door Session
Mark Wilson  /  Getty Images file
Sen. Dick Durbin in a November 2005 photo.
updated 3/19/2006 8:47:23 PM ET 2006-03-20T01:47:23

A top Senate Democrat said Sunday that President Bush should be held responsible if he violated the law in authorizing the domestic spy program.

But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said it is too early to tell if either censure or impeachment of Bush would be appropriate.

“I can’t rule anything out until the investigation is complete. I don’t want to prejudge it,” said Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. “But if this president or any president violates the law, he has to be held accountable.”

Durbin’s colleague, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., last week introduced censure legislation, saying Bush violated the law in not fully informing Congress or getting approval from a secretive court to conduct the eavesdropping program. A censure resolution, if adopted, would amount to Congress scolding the president.

Since then, few Democrats have embraced the proposal, while some Republicans have sought to the cast the move as a shameless political ploy over a vital national security issue. Feingold is considered a presidential contender for 2008.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Durbin said he so far has not heard a valid legal justification for the spy program that was put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But he said considering the stronger sanction of impeachment was not a “valuable discussion at this point.”

“It’s valuable that Senator Feingold is moving us forward to finally be a catalyst to have the kind of hearings and the kind of deliberations as to what lies behind this warrantless wiretap situation,” said Durbin, calling the overall inquiries so far by the Republican-controlled Senate inadequate.

“We have a responsibility to ask the hard questions, to find out what the nature of the program is and whether the president violated the law,” Durbin said.

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