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Mrs. Gorsuch vs. Congress

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Whose government is it anyway? In America the obvious answer is the people whom the government is of, by, and for - as Lincoln said, echoing the ringing prologue to the Wycliffe Bible of almost five centuries before.

If the government is the people's, their representatives in Congress ought to have all the information necessary to carry out Congress's legislative and investigative functions.

Yet various presidents going back to George Washington have at least questioned the right of the people's representatives in Congress to certain presidential information. Now the Reagan administration is tasting the difficulties of trying to thwart congressional inquiry through ''executive privilege.''

First a congressional committee cited Interior Secretary James Watt for contempt for refusing to supply subpoenaed papers. The administration backed down to the extent of letting the papers be examined under limits of place and time. The contempt charges were not pressed.

Now a congressional subcommittee has recommended that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Anne Gorsuch, be cited for contempt by the full Public Works Committee. Her offense was refusing to supply some of the documents subpoenaed for an investigation of the workings of the $1.6 billion ''superfund'' legislation to protect the public from hazardous chemical waste.

It is to be hoped that the withheld papers, along with the many others she agreed to supply, will be provided as in the Watt case, though preferably without the effort to put strings on them.


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