The United States Congress had given President George W. Bush a virtually free run during the first six years of his tenure. The Republicans who controlled both Houses until the November 2006 election made hardly any effort to hold him accountable for flawed policies and misgovernance. The situation has changed dramatically since the Democrats gained control of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives and initiated enquiries into several aspects of the administration's record. The Senate investigations into the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys could prove to be particularly damaging since the Democrats appear determined to make key White House officials testify under oath in public. While the Attorneys are political appointees, they are expected to enforce federal law in their respective districts in a non-partisan manner. The investigations so far suggest that the eight federal prosecutors lost their jobs either because they were insufficiently zealous about pursuing cases against Democrats or because they refused to go easy on Republicans. There is a good chance that impeachment proceedings could be instituted against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales unless he steps down or is dismissed by the President. The Democrats may not be satisfied with action against Mr. Gonzales alone. They seem to be firm on pursuing leads that Mr. Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove, former White House legal counsel Harriet Miers, and several G.O.P lawmakers have had a role in these dismissals.
The Bush administration has also been subjected to congressional investigations into two other issues. It was forced into a damage-control mode after Congress followed up on articles published in The Washington Post depicting the appalling treatment being given to veterans of the Iraq war in the Walter Reed hospital. In early March, a House committee also heard testimony from Valerie Plame, the Central Intelligence Agency operative whose cover was blown by White House officials. Ms. Plame demolished the argument of these officials that they had not jeopardised national security by revealing her identity since she did not occupy a very sensitive post. Although important, these congressional investigations might not amount to much more than skirmishes preliminary to the main battle. The Democrats have already tested Mr. Bush on at least two occasions in their attempt to make him change his Iraq policy. While Republicans in Congress have managed to hold their rivals off so far, it might be only a matter of time before incumbents from swing States and districts joined the Democrats in calling for a withdrawal from Iraq.