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  /  News   /  Luna push to fine Garland $10,000 per day over Biden-Hur tapes fails 

Luna push to fine Garland $10,000 per day over Biden-Hur tapes fails 

The House on Thursday rejected a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in “inherent contempt” of Congress and fine him $10,000 per day that he does not turn over audio tapes from President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur. 

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) had spearheaded the effort, forcing a vote on the matter despite the reservations of GOP leadership, who prefer to try to obtain the tapes through other avenues like legal challenges.

The resolution failed on the floor in a 204-210 vote. Four House Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the resolution: Reps. John Duarte (Calif.), David Joyce (Ohio), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Mike Turner (Ohio). Republican absences appear to have influenced the outcome.

Two test votes the day before indicated that the resolution had legs. The measure overcame two attempts to effectively kill it: A motion to table failed 207-209, and a motion to refer the resolution to the Rules Committee failed 207-211, with four Republicans joining all Democrats in support.

Luna had toned down the measure from her original inherent contempt resolution, which would have directed the House Sergeant at Arms to arrest and detain Garland over his refusal to turn over the Biden interview tape. 

The move piles on to Democratic concerns about Biden’s age and messaging ability after his poor debate performance two weeks ago. 

In the report detailing why he would not seek to charge Biden over his handling of classified documents, the special counsel said that any jury would likely see Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” citing portions of the October interview in which Biden had trouble remembering dates and key arguments he had made.

Luna had been pushing for the rarely-used inherent contempt — having Congress directly enforcing its will rather than relying on the executive branch to do so — even before that debate.

But Republican leadership expressed concerns about the legality and methods of enforcement, and has been pursuing other avenues to obtain the Biden-Hur audio.

The House last month held Garland in “regular” contempt over refusal to turn over the interview audio. The Department of Justice (DOJ) responded by saying it would not prosecute Garland, the head of the agency, because Biden had claimed executive privilege over the tapes. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit to force Garland to turn over the tapes.

The DOJ has already provided the House a written transcript of the conversation. Republicans argue that because the DOJ provided the transcript, it cannot withhold the audio, which it says it needs to ensure the transcript is accurate.

On the House floor, Luna argued that using inherent contempt is a way for Congress to exert its power and will when the executive branch will not carry it out.

“Despite what my colleagues may think, this is not a stupid idea, but actually our constitutional duty, and it is well within the scope of our legislative authority to assert the House’s power in this manner,” Luna said on the House floor.

Her comment was a reference to those from House Rules Committee fanking member Jim McGovern (R-Mass.).

“This is a stupid resolution,” McGovern said on the House floor. “Republican leadership knows this is a stupid resolution. Their own members know this is a stupid resolution. But they’re beholden to the craziest MAGA members in their conference.”

“Let’s be real. Republicans want to get these recordings because they think the [Republican National Committee] can use them in attack ads,” McGovern said, also dinging Republican members who ignored subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee in the last Congress.

McGovern’s comment led to a squabble for several minutes on the House floor, apparently over whether his “stupid” comment violated House rules and a request to withdraw his comments from the record. McGovern eventually acquiesced to that request.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) had explained his reservations in a press conference on Tuesday.

“As a constitutional litigator, former constitutional litigator, my preference is to follow the legal process and legal proceedings that protect the institution,” Johnson said in a press conference on Tuesday. “I frankly have a little pause about presenting an article one authority question to the Article three branch – to the federal judiciary desk, the judicial branch – whether they believe we have the right to enforce a subpoena in this unconventional way.”

But despite those concerns, Johnson said: “If it’s brought to the floor, I’ll vote for it.” 

Luna, though, got support for her inherent contempt push from former President Trump, who wrote on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday: “I AGREE with Anna Paulina Luna and the many House Members who think Merrick Garland should be held in INHERENT CONTEMPT for refusing to release the Biden Tapes even though they were subpoenaed!”