GOP in limbo on Garland contempt vote as some Republicans cast doubts

GOP in limbo on Garland contempt vote as some Republicans cast doubts

The House GOP effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress is in limbo, with Republicans unsure whether they have the votes to pass the measure.

Two committees last week easily passed resolutions to censure Garland, and Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has since projected confidence, saying he expects the measure to pass “handily” once lawmakers return from their weeklong Memorial Day recess.

But a source familiar with behind-the-scenes discussions said there are at least two Republican members who have privately said they will not vote for the measure.

That’s a problem given the razor-thin House GOP majority, which leaves Republicans only able to pass bills with one or two defections, if Democrats are unified.

Leadership was whipping the Garland vote this week as some GOP members suggested some of their colleagues are not yet on board.

“We’re not gonna do it unless we know we can pass it,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told The Hill, adding “there’s more than one” GOP colleague who has reservations.

He said dynamics could shift over the break as “people figure out how to get comfortable with it.”

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) said some members may be “squishy” on the issue.

“If they got problems, they’re from squishes, not me,” he said when asked about the timing of the vote.

The fact the House did not vote on the Garland matter over the past week was notable.

Johnson has called the vote timing a “calendar issue,” and while a delay isn’t unheard of, leadership typically schedules votes on such matters while they still have momentum coming out of committee.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.) the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said matters were complicated by the rowdy May 15 Oversight meeting to consider the matter, which descended into chaos with a lengthy sidebar over whether to censure Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) after she commented on Rep. Jasmine Crockett’s (D-Texas) use of fake eyelashes.

Chaos erupts in hearing as Greene, Ocasio-Cortez clash over ‘fake eyelashes’ jibe at Crockett

“Some of the members on the other side were saying that Chairman Comer presided over so much chaos and dysfunction in our committee that they lost the thread of what they were doing there,” Raskin said.

“I mean, the whole country was looking at Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about fake eyelashes, but nobody was focused at all on their outlandish claim that the attorney general of the United States is in contempt of Congress.”

GOP lawmakers have presented a confusing case about the need to hold Garland in contempt after he refused to turn over the audio recordings of President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

Lawmakers already have a transcript of the interview, and on the eve of the committees’ meetings, Biden claimed executive privilege over the tapes.

Impeachment investigators have claimed the recording is an important part of their probe, even as the transcript makes clear topics from their impeachment probe were not covered in the course of a two-day interview squarely centered on how classified documents ended up in Biden’s home and a prior office.

Some of the GOP’s more moderate members have said they don’t see any connection between the tapes and the impeachment investigation, even as they likewise argue Garland should turn over the tapes.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), a target for Democrats in this fall’s elections, was noncommittal about how he would vote while being critical of Garland.

“They’re not tied together. It’s two separate issues,” he said of impeachment and the tapes.

“The Department of Justice has a responsibility to comply with lawful subpoenas. You don’t get to pick and choose which ones are lawful,” he said, telling reporters “we’ll see” when asked about his vote.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who also represents a swing district, cast it as an important election year issue.

“We’re entitled to have that tape, bottom line,” he said, answering “not really” when asked if he saw the audio as connected to the impeachment probe.

He said voters should be able to hear the tapes given Hur’s comments about Biden’s mental acuity and remarks that jurors might view him as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

“The prosecutor made a decision not to prosecute because he said he wasn’t mentally up to the trial — I’m using my own words. So we should know what’s on that tape, because that’s an important thing. We have an election going on,” Bacon said.

That is one of the top concerns from Democrats, who have argued the GOP only wants the tapes to slice and dice for campaign commercials.

“They want the audio tape, and that’s obviously for political TV commercials,” Raskin said Thursday.

Garland defended his decision at a Thursday press conference, saying he went to “extraordinary lengths” to accommodate Congress’s request.

“I have released the full and unredacted report of Mr. Hur, we permitted Mr. Hur to testify for over five hours on everything that happened in connection with its investigation, and we provided the transcripts of the interviews in which the committee is interested,” Garland said.

“But on the other side, the president of the United States has exerted executive privilege in order to protect the Justice Department’s ability in future investigations to get cooperation in high-profile cases, particularly involving the White House. My job is to protect the Justice Department’s ability to conduct those investigations, my job is to protect the rule of law — and that’s what I’m doing.”

If leadership brings the contempt resolution to the floor when it returns, it will happen within days of Garland’s June 4 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Many in the GOP are eager to get to a vote, even as the chairs of the two committees that lead the effort — the House’s Oversight and Judiciary committees — were unclear on timing.

House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) told reporters Thursday he had been given no assurances on the timing of any vote but said he “assume[d] it’ll come to the floor.”

And House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he expected a vote shortly after recess.

“The case is as compelling as it gets. So I’m all for doing it. And I think it’s gonna happen as soon as we come back,” he told The Hill.

“I’m for doing it as soon as possible.”

Mychael Schnell contributed.

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