GOP considers novel tactic to compel testimony if they win House: Defund a bureaucrat

Aggressive oversight will only work if witnesses can be forced to tell the truth and comply with subpoenas, Rep. Andy Bigg says.

Updated: September 3, 2022 - 11:05pm

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    Republicans eager to begin aggressive oversight of the Biden administration if they win the House in November are already weighing options to resolve a key concern: how to compel witnesses to testify and turn over evidence when the Justice Department remains in Democrat hands. A prominent conservative is offering a novel solution: defund individual bureaucrats who don't comply with subpoenas.

    "I think that they don't have the right to turn down that subpoena," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told Just the News. "It seems to me that we're going to be able to hold you in contempt. Our problem, of course, is the contempt law, the way it's written, we end up having to go to, of all places, [Attorney General] Merrick Garland. That means getting the Department of Justice, trying to get him to help us enforce that subpoena.

    "We're probably going to have to look very carefully at how you change that law. Because you can't go to the enforcer who is not willing to participate."

    Biggs told the "Just the News, Not Noise" television show last week he would like to adapt a century-and-a-half old procedure known as the Holman rule to punish noncompliant witnesses before Congress.

    The Holman Rule was created in 1876 and named after an Indiana congressman who conceived of letting any member of Congress move to amend an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program. The measure would have to be approved by a majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate.

    The arcane rule had fallen out of sight for decades, but in 2017 House Republicans revived it to allow any federal bureaucrat's salary to be cut to $1 in an effort to force spending cuts on agencies or programs unwilling to reduce spending.

    Biggs believes the rule could be further adapted to reduce the pay of any government witness who refuses to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking evidence or testimony.

    "I anticipate further obstruction on the part of Merrick Garland," he said. "But we may have to find a way, to devise a way to go around Merrick Garland to get these people to come in. And that's why I think [what] we need to do first and foremost is reinstate the Holman rule, so that we get to hold people like Merrick Garland responsible.

    "And that Holman rule allows the Congress to basically defund an individual bureaucrat, who is willfully ... violating the subpoena power and oversight power of the United States Congress."

    With Democrats in control of Congress, the House managed to persuade DOJ to prosecute two former Trump aides for criminal contempt of Congress. Steve Bannon was convicted this summer, and Peter Navarro is awaiting trial this fall.

    But when the White House and Congress were split between the two parties a decade ago during the Obama years, Republicans referred two senior government officials — then-Attorney General Eric Holder and former IRS official Lois Lerner — for criminal contempt, but the Justice Department refused to bring the prosecutions.

    It is that scenario that Biggs and his colleagues want to avoid if they win control of the House next year.

    You can watch the full TV segment with Biggs here: