GOP Eyes 146-Year-Old Rule That Could Cut Biden Officials’ Pay to $1 If They Refuse to Testify

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

While the massive red midterm wave that was expected this November looks like it will be a bit smaller, the majority of pundits still believe Republicans will take back the House from Democrats.

Republicans only need a net gain of four seats to take back the House.

Last week, Charlie Crist, a Democratic congressman from Florida, announced that he will resign as he faces Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November’s election.

As a result, Democrats will be able to hold fewer seats in the House before the midterm elections, which may complicate their legislative efforts.

“Today, I’m announcing my resignation from Congress. Casework operations will continue under the Office of Florida’s 13th Congressional District until newly elected members take office in 2023. It’s been a privilege to serve Pinellas in Washington. Read my full statement below,” Crist shared in a tweet that included a screenshot of his complete statement.

When Republicans gain control of the House in November, they will begin aggressive oversight of the Biden administration, but a key concern remains: how to pressure witnesses to testify and provide documents if the Justice Department is controlled by Democrats. There is a novel conservative solution to the subpoena issue: defund individual bureaucrats who ignore them.

“I think that they don’t have the right to turn down that subpoena. 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,” Rep. Andy Biggs said to Just the News.

“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.

If a government witness refuses to comply with a congressional subpoena, Biggs believes the rule could be further modified to reduce their pay.

“I anticipate further obstruction on the part of Merrick Garland,” he stated. “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,” Biggs continued.

As a result of Democrats controlling Congress, DOJ was persuaded to prosecute two former Trump aides for criminal contempt of Congress. There was a conviction this summer for Steve Bannon, and there will be a trial in the fall for Peter Navarro.

“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,” according to Just the News.

Those are the types of scenarios Biggs and his colleagues wish to avoid if they take control of the House next year.

The official House website page for the Holman Rule reads in part, “by a vote of 156 to 102, the U.S. House of Representatives first adopted the Holman Rule that sought to institutionalize reductions in government spending through changes in House rules of operation.”

Proposed by the “watchdog of the Treasury,” Representative William S. Holman of Indiana, it modified House Rule 120 which prohibited appropriations “for any expenditure not previously authorized by law.” The only exceptions concerned public works in progress and contingency funds—generally applied as salary raises for government workers.

The Rules Committee reported a change to Rule 120 that would allow legislative language in relevant appropriations bills to cut federal outlays.

Holman explained that the Appropriations Committee held the authority under Rule 120 to increase spending, and now “we shall be able to retrench expenditures.”

Opponents to the new rule, such as former Appropriations Chairman James A. Garfield of Ohio, warned that Appropriations would gain “such a general sweeping power” as “to render obsolete the power of all the other committees of the House.”

Iowa’s John A. Kasson feared that the committee could replace the priorities of the authorization committees with its own.

The House then proceeded to adopt the Rules Committee report. That the vote was along party lines indicated the majority’s expectations that the change would arm them in their upcoming battles with a Senate and President of the opposite party.


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