The House Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to send contempt of Congress citations to the House floor for White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, both of whom failed to appear before Congress to testify about the firings of several US attorneys. The 22-17 vote was along strict party lines and will likely lead to a full House vote sometime this fall. If the House approves the resolution, the US attorney for the District of Columbia would be responsible for pursuing the case, though the administration has already indicated that the Department of Justice — which falls under the Executive Branch — would order the DC attorney to drop the case.
The contempt of Congress citations are further escalations in the investigations of whether the firings of some US attorneys were made for political reasons. The White House has repeatedly denied Congress access to documents and testimony. House Judicial Committee Chair John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) argued for the citations before the committee vote in order to maintain credibility in the Legislative Branch, saying, “If we countenance a process where our subpoenas can be readily ignored, where a witness under a duly authorized subpoena doesn’t even have to bother to show up’ then we have already lost… We won’t be able to get anybody in front of this committee or any other,” the Washington Post reports.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the committee vote and contempt proceedings part of a “broader effort by House Democrats to restore our nation’s fundamental system of checks and balances,” in a statement. “The Constitution gives the Congress a crucial role in overseeing the Executive Branch in order to protect the America people against overreaching, incompetence, and corruption’ For the last six years, under Republican leadership, Congress failed to conduct its proper oversight role, resulting in fiascos such as the mismanagement of our Iraq policy, widespread corruption by contractors such as Halliburton, and the failed response to Hurricane Katrina.”
Under her leadership, however, Speaker Pelosi pledges to reinstate the power and carry out the responsibilities of the Legislative Branch: “Congress will act to preserve and protect our criminal justice system and to ensure appropriate Congressional oversight in all areas essential to the well-being of the American people.”