Republicans prepare contempt citation against Eric Holder over Fast and Furious
How does a contempt proceeding against the executive branch work?
Both Democrats and Republicans have used it, but rarely. After former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten refused to comply with congressional subpoenas on the George W. Bush administration firing of U.S. attorneys in 2008, the Democrat-led House voted to hold them in contempt.
The House then went to a federal district court seeking a declaratory judgment and injunction ordering Miers and Bolten to comply with the subpoenas. The district court ruled in favor of the House, the ruling was subsequently stayed, and a compromise was reached.
Under President Clinton, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee voted to hold Attorney General Janet Reno in contempt over documents regarding campaign finance law violations.
In the case of Holder and Fast and Furious, the Oversight Committee's contempt resolution could eventually have a full House vote and, if passed, Congress could seek enforcement through federal courts. Passage of the resolution itself could, however, encourage the Justice Department to comply even without a court order.
A contempt citing by Congress against the executive branch, a strong sanction, is considered by some to be politically risky; especially if it doesn't succeed. Sources say that's why Republican staffers have taken a great deal of time trying to build support among colleagues in advance of the citation's formal release, which could come in the next few weeks if not sooner.
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