Resolution also reaffirms that committee chairs may go to federal court to seek civil enforcement of all subpoenas when authorized by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group
WASHINGTON, DC — Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern (D-MA) today managed debate on the House Floor for H.Res. 430, a resolution he introduced to combat the president’s disregard for Congress’s constitutional oversight authority, the rule of law, and our nation’s separation of powers. The resolution authorizes the Judiciary Committee chair to seek civil enforcement in federal court of the subpoenas issued to Attorney General Barr and former White House Counsel McGahn regarding the Mueller report. It also reinforces key language in the House Rules to make clear that every chair of a committee or permanent select committee retains the ability to go to federal court to seek civil enforcement of their subpoenas when authorized by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.
Excerpts from McGovern’s speech are included below and video of his full remarks is availablehere:
“Mr. Speaker, this is a dark time. This Congress is being tested - in this case, not by a foreign adversary, but by our own president. A president who is undertaking a relentless campaign of obstruction and stonewalling. We’ve never seen anything like this! Never before, Mr. Speaker, has a president of either party so flagrantly ignored Congress’s constitutional oversight authority and our nation’s separation of powers.
“You don’t have to take my word for it. President Trump himself has declared, ‘we are fighting all subpoenas,’ and ‘I don’t want people testifying.’ These words make Richard Nixon look like an Eagle Scout!...
“His Attorney General, Bill Barr, is apparently more than willing to follow the president’s command. He has refused to release the full, unredacted Mueller report and any underlying evidence until a compromise was finally reached yesterday. That’s after the Judiciary Committee had already voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.
“Apparently, the Attorney General went from being America’s lawyer to being the defense counsel for the president of the United States!
“I hope the Justice Department acts in good faith on this new agreement. These are documents that Congress needs to see in response to Special Counsel Mueller’s findings. But if they do not, and if the Attorney General holds back key information, then all options need to be on the table, including enforcing these subpoenas. That’s in addition to the fact that some documents and testimony we deserve to obtain could very well fall outside the bounds of this agreement…
“The president is trying to take this balance of power and centralize it in one place: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He’s acting as though the law applies to every American but himself. The president’s strategy here is clear. Tweet by tweet, quote by quote, he’s laid it bare for us all to see.
“The question is whether this Congress will have the courage to take a stand against it. Whether we will confront this for what it is: an attack on the very notion of Congress as a coequal branch of government. I can’t speak for my friends on the other side of the aisle. But this Democratic Majority will not allow this president to turn a blind eye to the rule of law…
“Because the challenge here is so great that if we don’t stand up to President Trump today, then we risk losing the power to stand up to any president in the future.
“So I strongly urge my colleagues: let’s make clear that the law still matters - even in Donald Trump’s America.”
This resolution is cosponsored by Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA).
The House Judiciary Committee recently voted to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to release the full, unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence. President Trump has since taken the extreme step of asserting executive privilege over the entire document.
An agreement was recently reached between the Attorney General and the Judiciary Committee on some of the underlying evidence in the Mueller report. This resolution will keep all options on the table to ensure the Department of Justice lives up to this agreement, while helping get access to documents and information that fall outside of it.
The Attorney General’s obstruction is part of a pattern of unprecedented and unconstitutional stonewalling by the Trump administration that conceals the truth from the American people and defies Congress’s constitutional oversight authority, the rule of law, and our nation’s separation of powers.
Barr’s refusal to provide documents to Congress extends beyond the Mueller report to issues that are critical to Americans’ lives, from the Department of Justice’s decision to ask the courts to unravel Americans’ health care to the administration’s cruel family separation policy. All the while, the administration continues to direct witnesses, including McGahn, to ignore subpoenas to appear before Congress.
This administration’s stonewalling is so systemic that the efficient approach to civil enforcement through the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group is required, rather than individual resolutions on the House Floor.