Legislative Lowdown: Will Holder be held in contempt?

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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According to The Hill, Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is circulating a resolution that would hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to share non-privileged documents with Congress relating to the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.

Attorney General Eric Holder has testified on numerous occasions about the scandal that featured Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials allowing thousands of firearms to be purchased by Mexican drug cartels. On one occasion, Holder had to recant sworn testimony about when he became aware of the scandal.

Congress has oversight authority over the Department of Justice. Pursuant to that authority, Congress has the power to subpoena documents and testimony from government officials. If a government official fails to submit requested information, he or she is supposed to be subject to sanction and maybe jail time.

Chairman Issa can have his committee vote out a resolution of contempt as early as next week. The next step would be to have the House of Representatives, as a whole, debate and vote on a criminal contempt resolution. The government agency charged with enforcing contempt of Congress resolutions is, ironically, the Justice Department. It is expected that the House will request that civil suit in the U.S. District Court for D.C. seeking a declaratory judgment and “appropriate relief” to enforce the subpoena.

Democrats can’t argue that this is unusual or an overreach, because they followed this very procedure to hold former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress in 2007 during the U.S. attorney controversy.

Obama spikes football, then betrays freedom

While President Obama was spiking the football in Kabul, Afghanistan, to celebrate the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, his embassy in China was forcing a human-rights activist into the hands of an oppressive communist government. Not exactly a profile in courage for the commander in chief.

His carefully crafted speech in Kabul seemed designed mainly to boost his re-election efforts. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told The Hill that the “campaign-related” trip “to Afghanistan was an attempt to shore up Obama’s national security credentials — because he has spent the past three years gutting our military.” Others will say that President Obama deserved the opportunity to go to Afghanistan for a victory lap and to remind the American people that he was in charge when the brave and heroic members of Seal Team 6 captured and killed Osama bin Laden.

Ironically, while the Obama victory tour was in full swing, the U.S. embassy in China was forcing Chen Guangcheng to the street and into the arms of his tormenters. Chen is a world-famous activist who had been under house arrest and beaten by Chinese officials off and on for the past few years.

Chen had escaped to the protection of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing — until a few days ago when Obama’s employees decided to walk him into the local hospital with the promise of protection. Yet they, according to Chen, abandoned him and did not negotiate for his, and his family’s, safety.

Violence Against Women Act-Lite

House Republicans are expected to pass a trimmed version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), H.R. 4970, next week. A beefed-up version of VAWA, S. 1925, passed the Senate on a 68 to 31 vote, including controversial protections for same-sex couples and expanded jurisdiction for tribal courts.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) argues that the idea behind the VAWA “oversteps the Constitution’s rightful limits on federal power.” Our Founders believed that the powers delegated to the federal government are “few and defined.” The federal government is not the proper instrument to conduct police powers better left to state and local governments.

Both parties might want to take a step back, read the Constitution and rethink the unwise idea of having the federal government combating the problem of violence against individuals in relationships.

Undoing cuts to national security

Next week the House Budget Committee will vote to repeal automatic defense spending cuts scheduled to gut our national defense in January. The Sequester Replacement Act, H.R. 4966, would prevent billions in defense cuts and replace those cuts with reductions in discretionary spending and mandatory spending.

Included in the proposal is a cut to the fourth-largest entitlement program, food stamps. Spending on the food stamp program has exploded under the Obama administration and many of the payments are duplicates of other aid programs to the poor and payments to individuals who are not eligible for the program.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).