Eric Holder will sprout wings and fly before Lois Lerner goes to jail for contempt of Congress
By Mark Tapscott | MAY 9, 2014 AT 8:51 AM
Imagine the outrage that would erupt if House Speaker John Boehner dispatched congressional gendarmes to arrest Lois Lerner and confine her to the Capitol jail.
In defending such a decision, Boehner might say something like this:
"I remember before we made that decision of what to do, not only checking out the precedents on the inherent power of Congress to hold a person in contempt, but what would be done if that occurred. Who would go out and arrest Ms. Lerner? And where would she be incarcerated?
"I checked out the location of the old jail in the Capitol Building. I actually went and met with the Architect of the Capitol, and he took me around and showed me where they [the Capitol police] used to hold prisoners."
House Democrat did say that
The preceding quote was actually spoken. It happened in 1982 as House Democrats — outraged by then-EPA Administrator Anne Burford — sought a legal means of punishing her for delaying the announcement of a Superfund grant in California.
The speaker was then-Georgia Rep. Elliot Levitas. As Powerline's Steven Hayward explains this morning, he and his fellow Democrats were angry that Burford cited executive privilege in refusing to hand over documents about the delayed grant announcement.
Ultimately, Levitas's visit with the Architect of the Capitol proved unnecessary because the battle with Burford was resolved without resorting to what is arguably the ultimate congressional weapon against recalcitrant executive branch officials.
Nothing has changed since 1982
Burford's sin of hiding documents behind executive privilege seems almost harmless compared to Lerner's use of the federal taxing power in the IRS to suppress the First Amendment rights of thousands of Americans whose political views she found objectionable.
Now that the House has found Lerner in contempt and asked Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute her, Boehner and his fellow GOPers are headed to an embarrassing dead end.
Holder will sprout wings and fly from atop the Justice Department building before he lifts a finger to prosecute Lerner.
Depends on the meaning of "shall"
And he will find some way — not excluding simply ignoring it — to get around the law that says the U.S. Attorney "shall" file charges against an individual found in contempt of Congress.
At that point, Republicans will have to decide whether to blink or to do what no House has done since 1935, which is invoke its power of inherent contempt and jail Lerner until she talks.
As a 2012 Congressional Research Service study noted, invoking that power has an "unseemly" feel to it. So they will blink. Count on it.
Then, just as the Washington Examiner predicted in a March 27, 2014 editorial, Lerner will get away scot-free, a phrase with an unexpectedly relevant connection to the IRS.