OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Republicans are already making plans to hold aggressive oversight hearings should they take back control of one or both chambers of Congress during the November midterms.
But they are also being realistic: They know that a Democratic president will still be in office and the Washington bureaucracy is historically hostile to the GOP.
As such, Republicans are considering a novel tactic in order to compel members of Joe Biden’s administration to honor congressional subpoenas and provide testimony: Defunding key bureaucrats, Just the News reported on Friday.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told the outlet’s streaming newscast that’s the only way to compel officials to testify.
“I think that they don’t have the right to turn down that subpoena,” Biggs told Just the News. “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.”
He added: “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.”
Specifically, Biggs said he favors adopting the Holman rule, a 150-year-old procedure that could be used to punish noncompliant officials. Just the News explains:
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.
Biggs believes the rule could be further adapted to reduce the pay of any government witness who refuses to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking evidence or testimony.
“I anticipate further obstruction on the part of Merrick Garland,” he said. “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,” he told the outlet.
After Democrats took full control of Congress following the 2020 election, the House was able to convince Garland’s Justice Department to prosecute a pair of former Trump officials for criminal contempt of Congress — ignoring subpoenas. Steve Bannon was convicted of the crime over the summer, while Peter Navarro is still awaiting his trial.
But a decade ago when Republicans controlled all of Congress but Barack Obama was president, the GOP referred two senior administration officials for criminal contempt — then-Attorney General Eric Holder and then-IRS official Lois Lerner. But the DOJ would not prosecute them.
That is the scenario that Biggs hopes to avoid if they manage to win back the House in November, Just the News added.
Several Republicans have already said they plan to hold hearings involving a number of Biden administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Biden’s chief medical advisor. He has said he plans to retire by the end of Biden’s term, but GOP lawmakers are not prepared to just let him slip away.
In particular, Republicans like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio want to know about a conference call in January of this year in which Fauci, his then-boss, former National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, as well as other scientists who were in consultation with the Biden administration in which they talked about the pandemic’s origins.
“It was on this conference call that Drs. Fauci and Collins were first warned that COVID-19 may have leaked from the [Wuhan lab] and, further, may have been intentionally genetically manipulated,” Republican lawmakers said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra at the time.
“Those are the first people you want to talk to. You want to talk to the 11 guys on that call, and you want to find out what exactly did happen. We’ve seen the emails and correspondence after the call, subsequent to the call, but what all happened?” Jordan told Fox News in June.