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In contempt of Congress

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to cite Lois Lerner, the former IRS official, for contempt of Congress for asserting her Fifth Amendment right in refusing to answer questions before the House Oversight Committee. At nearly the same moment, the House formed a select committee to investigate the bombing of our consulate in Benghazi...for the umpteenth time.

And so the Republican scandal parade continues.

Of the two, the contempt citation seems the most egregious. The right against self-incrimination is one of the most basic in the Bill of Rights. It is claimed…mostly by Chairman Issa, whose motives might be somewhat suspect…that Ms. Lerner gave up her Fifth Amendment rights when she read a statement claiming her innocence. This is an old argument, going all the way back to the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Hollywood Ten. (Coincidence? We think not.) And there is a certain irony in Chairman Issa asserting this as he showed his contempt for his Democratic colleagues by shutting off Ranking Member Elijah Cummings’ microphone in mid-sentence at the self-same hearing.

Of course, nothing is apt to come of this. The numerous previous investigations of the Benghazi incident have uncovered no wrong-doing on the administration’s part. And despite Chairman Issa’s best…and most dishonest…efforts, less than nothing has come out of the IRS investigations. While denouncing the Obama administration as the “most corrupt in history”…quite a statement given his own party’s history…Chairman Issa has failed to find, well, any corruption.

The question continues to be…why are the R’s doing this?

The answer is fairly simple. The Republicans have no other agenda. They have as much as said they will take no legislative action this year that might upset their base. So there will be no votes on such things as immigration reform, the minimum wage or unemployment compensation. There will be no serious jobs legislation, no education or tax reform. No…nothing.

Of course, one cannot say this is a change of any kind. Since the R’s took control of Congress in 2011, they have led the least productive Congresses in the history of the Republic. Probably this is because they know they’ll never get their reactionary right wing agenda through the Senate, much less signed by the President, so they don’t bother trying. The few efforts they have made have died a miserable death in the Senate.

The Republicans believe they will take over the Senate this year…and so they’ll be able to push their agenda more successfully next year. There is one way…and one way only…to prevent that…


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