This will allow committee chairs to act without a full house vote for each action and will save Democrats from conservative districts from having to vote on contempt proceedings multiple times.
In a party-line 229-191 vote, House Democrats on Tuesday passed a civil enforcement resolution that effectively holds Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress -- just a day after a key Democrat-led committee postponed its own contempt vote and said the Justice Department was cooperating with its investigation.
The whiplash of legislative action infuriated House Republicans, who said Democrats were violating committee rules and that federal law and executive privilege prevented Barr and McGahn from turning over all the requested documents. The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Doug Collins, accused his colleagues of seeking a "re-do" of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation for cynical political gain.
The DOJ, for its part, pushed back on the vote. A senior DOJ official said it was not a "civil contempt vote," calling the terminology a "Democratic talking point."
Although the resolution did not use the word "contempt," it afforded similar civil powers to Democrats hoping the move will bolster their legal case for accessing the documents. The resolution empowers House Democrats to use the services of the House counsel to take their subpoena fight to court, and also gives congressional committee chairs the ability to unilaterally "initiate" judicial proceedings to enforce subpoenas in federal court.