Congressman Connolly Wants to Use An Old Tool to Enforce Congressional Subpoenas

Jan 3, 2020

Even though the impeachment debate has now moved from the House to the Senate, a powerful Virginia Democrat is still calling on his party leaders to do more to force administration officials to work with House investigators.

All last year the fight between the White House and House Democrats over impeachment witnesses garnered the most attention, but many Democrats say that was only half the story.

Besides the White House trying to block all administration officials from testifying in the impeachment investigation, the president also directed many agencies not to comply with House investigations into things like the census or the administration’s child separation policy. That’s angered many Democrats.

Congressman Gerry Connolly

“We have to find a better mechanism for enforcing our subpoenas," says Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly who serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

He’s calling on his party leaders to dust off a tool that was used decades ago called inherent contempt, which would allow the House to deploy officials with the power of law enforcement to compel testimony from this White House, including jailing administration officials who disregard subpoenas.

“The other two branches can put people in jail or fine them or both if they don't cooperate," he explains.

Connolly says Democrats are also discussing sending federal judges more explicit, expedited instructions when there’s a squabble between the White House and Congress over documents or witnesses. Though the White House maintains most of what the president’s staff does is protected by executive privilege.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.