CRS Views Congress’s Contempt Power

A major new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service provides a detailed account of Congress’s contempt power, including the use of contempt proceedings to coerce compliance with congressional demands for information or testimony and to punish non-compliance.

“This report examines the source of the contempt power, reviews the historical development of the early case law, outlines the statutory and common law basis for Congress’s contempt power, and analyzes the procedures associated with each of the three different types of contempt proceedings. In addition, the report discusses limitations both nonconstitutional and constitutionally based on the power.”

The 68-page report also examines the Justice Department position that “Congress cannot, as a matter of statutory or constitutional law, invoke either its inherent contempt authority or the criminal contempt of Congress procedures against an executive branch official acting on instructions by the President to assert executive privilege in response to a congressional subpoena.”

See “Congress’s Contempt Power: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure,” July 24, 2007.

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