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According to a report from the Wall Street Journal's Byron Tau, Congressional investigations into criminal wrongdoing are in danger of becoming a thing of the past as witnesses increasingly game the system and partisan squabbling undermines the process.
With former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon balking at turning over documents and testifying under oath about the events of Jan 6th before a House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, Tau writes investigations are more about political power plays and less about seeking the truth.
According to the report, even if congressional committees are able to make the case for a criminal referral they are at the mercy of the Justice Department no matter who heads it up.
That, coupled with attorneys making unfounded claims that must then wend their way through the courts -- which could take months and even years due to the appeals process - are making recent investigations an exercise in futility for House or Senate members.
Using the Bannon case as an example, Anne Tindall, a lawyer who has worked both on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies on congressional investigations, told Tau, "The pressure here should be on the Department of Justice—at least with respect to Bannon to show that he isn't above the law, that a congressional subpoena is a lawful subpoena and the Department of Justice will ensure that he lives up to his obligations."
Writing, "The committee's efforts have exposed how powerless the modern Congress is without support from the courts or the Justice Department when witnesses or presidential administrations refuse to comply," the Journal's Tau added, "Under Democratic and Republican control alike, Capitol Hill investigators conducting probes have seen their subpoenas ignored, their requests for documents from administrations of both parties stonewalled and their lawsuits bogged down in procedural legal battles."
The report also notes that administrations have learned to play "hardball," when an investigation is being conducted by members of the opposing party.
Writing, "members of Congress have come to view these fights largely through a partisan lens, rallying to defend their party's interests rather than stick up for the institutional interests of Congress," Tau summed up the problem by explaining, "The result has been a slow erosion of congressional power as witnesses have realized that a combination of institutional paralysis and partisan gridlock would protect them from consequences."
According to Jonathan Shaub, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, the current investigation may still bear fruit -- Justice Department willing.
"The one difference now is that when Trump was the president, his Department of Justice would refuse to prosecute anyone for criminal contempt of Congress. Now Merrick Garland is the attorney general," he explained. "You might see the Justice Department begin the process."
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Joe Manchin fumes after Bernie Sanders Op-Ed in West Virginia paper calls out obstruction of Biden agenda
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia lashed out Friday after a major newspaper in his home state published an op-ed by Sen. Bernie Sanders that called out Manchin's obstruction of his own party's Build Back Better reconciliation package.
"Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs," Manchin said in a statement shared on social media.
https://t.co/iU96GLGzsT https://t.co/ly944dr2dE— Senator Joe Manchin (@Senator Joe Manchin) 1634338997.0
"No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that," he added.
At issue is an op-ed by Vermont Sen. Sanders—an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats—published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail in which he calls the proposed reconciliation bill "an unprecedented effort to finally address the long-neglected crises facing working families and demand that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in the country start paying their fair share of taxes."
Sanders details how the proposal would take action to tackle the climate emergency and make sweeping investments in Americans' wellbeing including through lowering prescription drug prices, expanding Medicare, continuing cash payments to working class parents, and making community college tuition-free.
"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation," wrote Sanders. "Yet," he continued, "the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote 'yes.' We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin." The other is Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
"This is a pivotal moment in modern American history," Sanders continued. "We now have a historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont, and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few."
The op-ed was published the same day the New York Times and CNN reported that Manchin's opposition to the Clean Electricity Performance Program—dubbed "the most impactful climate investment under consideration in Congress"—would likely mean it's left out of the budget package.
According to reporting at the Daily Blaze, members of the U.S Navy who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 not only will face being discharged but may be compelled to reimburse the government for their training costs.
As the report notes, the Navy has announced a timetable for being vaccinated with active-duty sailors required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 28. Service members in the selected reserve are being given until Dec. 28, with sailors responsible for receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or "one dose of the Johnson & Johnson by Nov. 14 so they can complete the 14-day waiting period to achieve full vaccination status by Nov. 28."
Those who balk not only face being discharged but also the potential to be billed for their training and education costs.
According to the report the Navy established the COVID Consolidated Disposition Authority tasked with dealing with vaccinating enlistees as well as dealing with those who are refusing being vaccinated.
A press release from the Navy is now outlining what steps the CDA is being authorized to take.
"The CCDA may also seek recoupment of applicable bonuses, special and incentive pays, and the cost of training and education for service members refusing the vaccine," the report states before adding, "For officers and enlisted serving in Navy leadership roles refusing the vaccine, they will be notified immediately in writing that they have five days to either begin a vaccination series or request an exemption before being relieved and have detachment for cause initiated."
The press release noted, "Sailors must be prepared to execute their mission at all times, in places throughout the world, including where vaccination rates are low and disease transmission is high. Immunizations are of paramount importance to protecting the health of the force and the warfighting readiness of the Fleet. "
You can read the entire statement here.
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