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Opinion: Morning Examiner

Eric Holder will sprout wings and fly before Lois Lerner goes to jail for contempt of Congress

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Imagine the outrage that would erupt if House Speaker John Boehner dispatched congressional gendarmes to arrest Lois Lerner and confine her to the Capitol jail.

In defending such a decision, Boehner might say something like this:

"I remember before we made that decision of what to do, not only checking out the precedents on the inherent power of Congress to hold a person in contempt, but what would be done if that occurred. Who would go out and arrest Ms. Lerner? And where would she be incarcerated?

"I checked out the location of the old jail in the Capitol Building. I actually went and met with the Architect of the Capitol, and he took me around and showed me where they [the Capitol police] used to hold prisoners."

House Democrat did say that

The preceding quote was actually spoken. It happened in 1982 as House Democrats — outraged by then-EPA Administrator Anne Burford — sought a legal means of punishing her for delaying the announcement of a Superfund grant in California.

The speaker was then-Georgia Rep. Elliot Levitas. As Powerline's Steven Hayward explains this morning, he and his fellow Democrats were angry that Burford cited executive privilege in refusing to hand over documents about the delayed grant announcement.

Ultimately, Levitas's visit with the Architect of the Capitol proved unnecessary because the battle with Burford was resolved without resorting to what is arguably the ultimate congressional weapon against recalcitrant executive branch officials.

Nothing has changed since 1982

Burford's sin of hiding documents behind executive privilege seems almost harmless compared to Lerner's use of the federal taxing power in the IRS to suppress the First Amendment rights of thousands of Americans whose political views she found objectionable.

Now that the House has found Lerner in contempt and asked Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute her, Boehner and his fellow GOPers are headed to an embarrassing dead end.

Holder will sprout wings and fly from atop the Justice Department building before he lifts a finger to prosecute Lerner.

Depends on the meaning of "shall"

And he will find some way — not excluding simply ignoring it — to get around the law that says the U.S. Attorney "shall" file charges against an individual found in contempt of Congress.

At that point, Republicans will have to decide whether to blink or to do what no House has done since 1935, which is invoke its power of inherent contempt and jail Lerner until she talks.

As a 2012 Congressional Research Service study noted, invoking that power has an "unseemly" feel to it. So they will blink. Count on it.

Then, just as the Washington Examiner predicted in a March 27, 2014 editorial, Lerner will get away scot-free, a phrase with an unexpectedly relevant connection to the IRS.

On today's washingtonexaminer.com

Editorial: Sequestration myths damage public faith in government.

Op-ed/Rep. Mike Coffman: It's time for Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki to get out of the way.

Columnist/David Freddoso: Missouri moves toward stronger gun rights as Supreme Court wavers on Second Amendment.

Columnist/Philip Klein: Sen. Bernie Sanders could be the Ron Paul of 2016.

Columnist/Veronique de Rugy: Ex-Im defenders rely on misleading view of Reagan.

Columnist/Byron York: The Benghazi probe didn't have to come to this.

Beltway Confidential/Ashe Schow: Call of Duty Endowment aids vets with results, not hype.

PennAve/David M. Drucker: Sen. Johanns sees Dinsdale surge as Sasse, Osborn flame war heats up in Nebraska GOP Senate primary.

PennAve/Betsy Woodruff: Palin endorses long-shot Maness in Louisiana GOP Senate primary.

Legal Newsline/David Yates: NRA backs Paxton in key Texas AG race.

In other news

The Washington Post: Online tests are latest gateway to landing new job.

USA Today: Russia marks victory day with display of military might.

CBS News: Which state has the most working moms?

Righty Playbook

The American Spectator: The Sixties road to Rutgers and beyond.

American Thinker: Hillary and the face of terror.

Washington Free Beacon: The Devil wears Obama.

Bonus must-read

National Affairs: The new American System.

Lefty Playbook

The Huffington Post: Hagan goes all-in for Obamacare in North Carolina Senate race.

The American Prospect: Cannes looks a lot like Hollywood where the power is all with men.

The Daily Beast: Syrian rebel wants new ally, Israel.

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: Why the FCC is ditching Net Neutrality.

Blog Right

Jammie Wearing Fools: Obama unleashes the Left's intolerance on campus.

Yid With Lid: Growing anti-semitism is ignored by campus administrators.

Hot Air: We're white males and we suck, and we know it.

Blog Left

Talking Points Memo: What now? GOP faces fizzle of its Obamacare war.

Talk Left: Uruguay releases guidelines for legal marijuana market.

Democratic Strategist: Don't believe the hype about the triumph of the GOP establishment.

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Author:

Mark Tapscott

Executive Editor
The Washington Examiner