The House has the power to arrest people who defy its orders

The House has the power to arrest people who defy its orders

  • In the 1927 case McGrain v. Daugherty, the Supreme Court reversed that decision and confirmed the power of the Senate to directly arrest Daugherty and bring him against his will to Washington to testify.
  • McGrain v. Daugherty made clear that the Constitution grants each chamber of Congress inherent power to hold hearings and to launch investigations as it conducts its legislative and oversight business – and also that Congress can compel compliance with its subpoenas through direct arrest and detention.
  • The court wrote: “Experience has taught that mere requests for such information often are unavailing, and also that information which is volunteered is not always accurate or complete; so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain that which is needed.” This power comes on top of any recourse that Congress might have to pursue contempt charges in court.
  • Admittedly, the two chambers of Congress have rarely made use of their power to arrest and detain contumacious witnesses.
  • On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” he declared: “I’d recommend to the Senate they send the sergeant at arms of the Senate to arrest a White House aide or any other witness who refuses to appear.”
  • As Congress decided to shirk its most important responsibilities, ranging from war powers to passing timely budgets, Congress gradually lost the respect of the executive branch.
  • To expect Congress humbly to ask a court to enforce congressional subpoenas only perpetuates Congress’s cession of its power.