Ignoring citation will take contempt of Constitution to a new level.
May 8, 2014
For House Democrats, there is nothing wrong with the IRS engaging in political persecution. In fact, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings, holding former IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify in committee hearings investigating the targeting of tea party and constitutional groups amounts to McCarthyism.
“This is the first time since the 1950s and ’60s that a committee has stripped somebody of their Fifth Amendment right, and then, at the same time, went on to a contempt citation. And, this is unprecedented, except in the McCarthy era,” said Cummings, a Maryland Democrat.
The Justice Department has routinely ignored contempt charges against Obama administration officials. In 2012, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to provide documents on the ATF’s Fast and Furious gun smuggling operation. Obama cited executive privilege over the documents. He said turning over the information would “raise substantial separation-of-powers concerns and potentially create an imbalance in the relationship” between Congress and the executive.
In response to Holder’s refusal, Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold and fellow House Republicans proposed legislation that would withhold the pay of federal officials and employees held in contempt of Congress who refuse to comply with subpoenas issued by Congress.
Legal experts say if the administration fails to challenge the Lerner citation in court it will take the administration’s contempt of the Constitution and the separation-of-powers to a new and unprecedented level.
“If DOJ decided for whatever reason not to go forward with Lerner in an instance where executive privilege was not raised, that indeed would be new and would signal a further weakening of the congressional contempt statute,” Stan Brand, a former House counsel, told Politico on Wednesday.