Republicans have big plans to hold the Biden administration accountable with committee hearings and subpoenas if they retake one or both chambers of Congress in November, but are also realistic enough to know that President Joe Biden’s White House and the bureaucracy will likely be highly uncooperative with such efforts.
In order to compel the necessary cooperation, however, some House Republicans have considered making use of an obscure appropriations rule that allows for the annual salaries of individual bureaucrats and officials to be slashed to as little as $1, the Conservative Brief reported.
The idea comes amid recognition of the fact that a Biden-controlled Justice Department would be unlikely to prosecute contempt of Congress charges against Democrat-aligned federal bureaucrats who are resistant to testifying when subpoenaed by a Republican-controlled committee.
How to compel cooperation
“I think that they don’t have the right to turn down that subpoena,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) told Just the News of federal bureaucrats. “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.”
“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,” the Arizona congressman added.
Thus, a proposed revival and adaptation of a more than a century-old procedure known as the Holman rule, named for the Indiana congressman who created it in 1876, that allows for amendments to appropriation bills that single out the funding for individual bureaucrats or specific programs, which had fallen out of favor decades ago but was recently brought back into play in 2017.
Recently revived, then put to rest again
The Washington Post reported in Jan. 2017 that House Republicans reinstituted the Holman rule as part of its rules package as a way to bypass expected bureaucratic resistance to then-incoming President Donald Trump’s plans to reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy.
That rule, which Democrats and federal workers’ unions dubbed the “Armageddon Rule,” had previously been dismantled in 1983 by then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA) as a way to block alleged “abuse” of the rule by the GOP and then-President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to shrink the size of the federal bureaucracy.
The Holman rule was only reauthorized for one year, however. Though it was renewed once again in 2018 by House Republicans, according to Roll Call at that time, it appears to have fallen into disuse once again after Democrats retook control of the House for the term that began in 2019.
Time for accountability
Now, with the GOP likely poised to take back majority control of at least the House, if not also the Senate, Rep. Biggs told Just the News that the old rule could be revived once again and altered, if necessary, to allow for the slashing of individual bureaucrats’ salaries as a means to compel their cooperation with congressional subpoenas for testimony.
“I anticipate further obstruction on the part of Merrick Garland,” Biggs 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 added.