Some House Democrats are looking to switch tactics after a federal appeals court shot down their lawsuit to enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn, suggesting invoking the rarely used “inherent competent” power of Congress, according to a report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling by a three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals “a challenge to our system of checks and balances” and would seek a hearing with the full appeals court.
But some Democrats want to invoke the “inherent contempt” power that allows the House to enforce subpoenas and send the House Sergeant at Arms to arrest people until they testify to Congress, Fox News reported on Tuesday.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) is among Democrats proposing slapping fines against witnesses who refuse to testify.
“[T]his protracted legal battle over subpoena enforcement tells us that the House needs to create procedures to enforce subpoenas itself,’ Lieu said in a statement. “The Supreme Court already has said that Congress has that power through inherent contempt. It’s well past time to use it. The House needs to pass our inherent contempt resolution, which enables the House to levy penalties directly against those refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas.”
Reps. Val Demings of Florida, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Joe Neguse of Colorado are among the Democrats seeking to use that tactic.
The House Judiciary Committee is seeking McGahn’s appearance as part of last year’s impeachment investigation.
McGahn, who left the White House in October 2018, cited executive privilege for not testifying.
Congress hasn’t flexed its “inherent contempt” power in 90 years.
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