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Louis Fisher is a leading national expert on the separation of powers. The author of 16 books often has his work cited in Supreme Court briefs, and he even merited a mention as an authority on war powers during Justice Samuel Alito Jr.’s confirmation hearings. But at age 71, instead of resting on his laurels or winning accolades for his work, the soft-spoken scholar appears to be on the verge of getting fired for being too opinionated. Fisher is a senior specialist at the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress that has a long tradition of analyzing policy issues and drawing conclusions — in Fisher’s case, often in favor of congressional over executive power. “If the evidence goes there, that is where I go,” says Fisher, offering a credo that has gotten Democrats and Republicans alike mad at him during his 35 years at the CRS. But in the past two years his positions have frequently put him at odds with the Bush administration over the Iraq war and anti-terrorism issues. He recently filed a brief in his personal capacity in the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld opposing President George W. Bush on the handling of enemy combatants. In January his supervisor reprimanded him for a press interview. An ensuing round of memos led CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan to order Fisher to apologize to the supervisor, adding that Fisher had failed to show respect for “fundamental principles of objectivity and non-partisanship.” Fisher says the notion of neutrality is “total crap.” Now more than ever, he says, Congress needs the analytical help to fend off “abuse by the executive branch.” Beth Daley of Project on Government Oversight agrees: “The CRS exists entirely to tell Congress the truth, and they don’t want Lou to tell it anymore.” As the reprimands escalated, scholars nationwide rallied to Fisher’s defense. “Fisher is a national treasure,” says George Mason University professor James Pfiffner. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said, “The Congress needs people like Lou Fisher with the brains and backbone to help us do our work.” In a statement, Mulhollan declined to say what will happen to Fisher, but he did say that Fisher has “chosen to embark on a personal campaign that has done harm to his colleagues and to the institution, which is unacceptable.”
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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