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Subpoena and Contempt Powers

Daniel Schuman edited this page May 21, 2019 · 7 revisions

Members of the House are exploring whether and how to vindicate Congress's subpoena and contempt powers. The following three proposals address this issue.

  1. This proposal from Good Government now would use the inherent contempt powers to create a process whereby the House would conduct trials of, convict, and directly sanction executive branch officials who obstruct the legislative information gathering process. Here is video from a panel discussion hosted by POGO that delved into the proposal.

  2. This proposal from former House Counsel Mike Stern would amend the House rules to empower the House counsel to bring an enforcement action in federal court, and would allow for the zeroing out of the salary of the senior responsible official resisting the request through the approps process. It would also lay the groundwork for impeachment of the senior responsible official. Here is video of a panel discussion hosted by the R Street institute that delved into the proposal. (This proposal did not address the thorny issue of when executive privilege is asserted).

  3. This set of recommendations from the The Select Committee on Benghazi (see p. 399) make the following recommendations:

  • House and Senate rules should be amended to provide for mandatory reductions in appropriations to the salaries of federal officials held in contempt of Congress.
  • The criminal contempt statute should be amended to require the appointment of a special counsel to handle criminal contempt proceedings upon the certification of a contempt citation against an Executive Branch official by the House or Senate.
  • Expedited procedures for the civil enforcement of congressional subpoenas should be enacted to provide timely judicial resolution of disputes.

Additional Resources

Additional Notes

Thanks to Mike Stern, who writes at Point of Order, for recommending several of these items.


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