Wait, they can do What?!

I was headed to lunch in Old Town today, when I heard the craziest thing on the radio. Now, I realize that just because I heard it on the radio, it doesn’t automatically have to be true, but would Kojo Nnamdi really lie to me? I don’t think so. The subject in question was the contempt citations that the Judiciary Committee voted to issue for Josh Bolton and Harriet Miers.

The question is: Should these two be cited for contempt of Congress, it is likely that the charges will not be filed by the Executive Branch, but what about the idea of inherent contempt of Congress? By that authority, the chamber could consider Bolton and Miers in inherent contempt of Congress, send the Sergeant at Arms (who’s well compensated for the privilege) to detain the object of their ire, and bring them forth to the Capitol for a speedy trial and sentencing.

The last time this happened was in 1934, when the Postmaster General was tried by Congress and sentenced to 10 days incarceration in the DC Jail:…

Let me describe how that contempt trial proceeded, just in case the Committee truly wishes to continue down the course urged by Senator Specter. Some of these procedural steps are all too familiar to us from our recent impeachment trial. Unlike the impeachment trial, which was presided over by the Chief Justice, the Senate’s last contempt trial was presided over by Vice President John Nance Garner. The Vice President also swore in all witnesses, who appeared in before the Senate and testified in the well of the Senate. Members of the special committee and the respondents and their counsels were given desks and seats in the well of the Senate. Senators with questions, who were not members of the special committee, had to submit their questions in writing to the Vice President, who had the clerk read the questions to each witness. The Vice President ruled on any objection to a question if raised. Counsels for the respondents and the Senators from the special committee could examine, cross-examine and re-examine witnesses.

The contempt trial took about one week, and then the Senate met in closed session to deliberate on the matter. At the end of the trial, the Senate voted on resolutions to hold Postmaster General MacCracken in contempt of the Senate and for the Senate Sergeant at Arms to take him into custody to be held in a D.C. jail for 10 days. This resolution was considered by roll call vote and a majority was required for adoption.

The Postmaster appealed the verdict by requesting a writ of Habeas Corpus, but was denied by the Supreme Court, who said that Congress acted within their powers.

So, it’s entirely possible we could see an inherent contempt charge set for Josh Bolton and for Harriet Miers, though I doubt that the Democrats are ready for the kind of backlash that it would cause. The trial for the Postmaster took a week. Do you think it would only take a week to try Bolton and Miers? What would the sentence be? Also, do remember that the Senate President is currently Vice President Cheney. Would that really have the intended effect?

6 Comments so far

  1. Mike (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

    I don’t think it would have any meaningful backlash. The average American certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of White House cronies do a frog march.

  2. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

    I think it would have the same effect as the impeachment trial had back in the Clinton days, Mike. Ill will, timewasting, etc.

  3. Richard Ault (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

    Frog march… lol. Not heard that one. Nice use.


  4. Don (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

    I don’t want to see extensive straw-grasping (though there’s something to be said for the fact that when Congress is investigating they’re not legislating, and I am pretty well full of laws as is) in citations and hearings, but I’d like to see them bitch-slap Miers on this. Not even SHOWING UP to claim executive priv is astonishingly arrogant and, I think, unacceptable.

    That said, I wonder if they wouldn’t have been within their powers to send out for her and have her forcibly brought in. You can exercise your fifth amendment right or claim exec priv but you will by god show up to do it. Anyone who thinks that’s unreasonable should try defying a subpoena to court under the claim that they were going to just plead the 5th anyway – see how long you spend in a cell for contempt.

  5. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

    subpoena is latin for under pain, after all…

  6. Richard Ault (unregistered) on July 26th, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

    Oh… and great points Tom. It’ll be interesting to see if Congress gets some back up and does anything.

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