Boehner: No, the House isn't going to arrest Lois Lerner for being in contempt

A leftover from yesterday via the Corner in case you missed it. I understand his reluctance: Having Congress send its own “police,” a.k.a. the sergeant-at-arms, to arrest a citizen is bad optics notwithstanding the merits of the contempt charge. It risks turning Lerner, the shadiest actor in the IRS scandal, into a media martyr “persecuted” by Republicans. Is it too much to ask, though, that Boehner relay the history of this power correctly in declining to use it? Contra what he says, the House has arrested people before, more than once. And it’s all perfectly legal.

Congress’ “inherent contempt” power hasn’t been used since 1935, but it has been upheld twice by the Supreme Court, in 1821 and 1927, according to O’Donnell’s article.

The House first pursued inherent contempt proceedings in 1795 against two men accused of offering bribes to lawmakers, and more than a dozen inherent contempt cases were tried in Congress over the course of the next six decades.

According to O’Donnell:

“The people rounded up by the sergeant-at-arms ranged from would-be bribers to an attorney general’s brother who was imprisoned in 1927 for refusing to comply with a subpoena in a Senate investigation of the lack of prosecution of allegations of antitrust violations. The offending witness is supposed to be locked up in the Capitol, but Congress also has turned them over to the city jail.”

He’s going to let Holder enforce the contempt charge, which is politically win/win for the GOP. If the DOJ prosecutes her, great! The chances of that happening are a hair north of zero but it’d be nice to have bipartisan unity against Lerner. If Holder doesn’t prosecute her, great! The GOP gets to show the public that the administration’s protecting one of its own in defiance of the law. And before you say that the flaw in that scenario is that Lerner won’t do time, read Jazz’s post from yesterday. Lerner’s probably not going to do time anyway.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022