Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Contempt of Congress

Last night I was wondering whether "Contempt of Congress" was anything more than a slap on the wrist. Not so much.

The criminal offense of "contempt of Congress" sets the penalty at not less than one month nor more than twelve months in jail and a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000. Those penalties are enforced upon conviction, even if the Congress which initiated the contempt citation has expired.

Contempt of Congress is an implied power of Congress just like executive privilege is an implied power of the Executive. It takes a majority vote of either Chamber to refer a person to be prosecuted for contempt. But remember, in the Senate it takes 60 votes to get anything to the floor to be discussed (filibuster rule). Oh yeah, also anyone convicted of contempt of Congress can be pardoned by the President.

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