Nine House Republicans broke ranks Thursday to join all Democrats in voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
While Democrats didn’t need any GOP votes in order to refer the criminal contempt charge to the Justice Department, these Republicans – a majority of whom backed former President Donald Trump’s January impeachment – voted in favor of doing so:
- Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming (January 6 committee member)
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania
- Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
- Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington
- Rep. John Katko of New York
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois (January 6 committee member)
- Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina
- Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan
- Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
How impeachment backers voted
Heading into Thursday’s vote, eyes were on the 10 House Republicans who had voted to impeach Trump in January and how they would come down on a criminal referral against Bannon.
While most of those House Republicans also backed Thursday’s vote, there were a handful of exceptions.
Three House Republicans that had voted in favor of Trump’s January impeachment – Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina and Rep. David Valadao of California – voted against Thursday’s criminal referral.
But two House Republicans who had voted against impeachment – Mace and Fitzpatrick – backed the move against Bannon.
Mace told reporters on Thursday that her vote was about being “consistent” and that she wants Congress to retain its subpoena power should Republicans win back the majority in 2022.
“I want the power to subpoena. When we start investigating some of the crises that are facing the Biden administration right now – whether we’re talking about the border or the botched exit from Afghanistan – there are a lot of things that I’m going to want to investigate when we’re in the majority,” she said.
What comes next?
Now that the referral has passed the House, it heads to the Justice Department, which will ultimately decide whether to bring charges that could result in jail time or fines.
Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time.
As severe as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning than a solution. Holding a person in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historic criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.
This story has been updated with additional information Thursday.