House Republicans failed in a push Wednesday to force the release of White House documents related to potential job offers made to two Democratic Senate primary challengers, Andrew Romanoff in Colorado and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania.
The Resolution of Inquiry failed on a party-line vote in the House Judiciary Committee, 15-12, leaving Republicans with a diminishing set of options as they try to force a wider investigation into White House efforts to entice Democratic challengers out of two key Senate races.
In the debate before the vote, Democrats insisted administration officials have already addressed the issues sufficiently and pointed to more pressing problems of concern to voters, including the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Republicans insisted there are still unanswered questions in both cases.
They want to know whether the White House Counsel’s Office signed off on job discussions between White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina and Romanoff that took place the day after the former Colorado House Speaker filed paperwork to run against Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet.
Republicans say the contact is potentially a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal government employees from engaging in political activity while on the job, defined as activity directed at the election or defeat of a candidate.
In the Sestak case, Republicans say they want to know whether former President Bill Clinton was used as an intermediary in offering Sestak a high-profile but unpaid position because a more direct approach had been already ruled out as a potential violation of the federal law.
“That would show right there the White House was very cognizant of the gray line they were toeing and tried to get around it,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who sits on the Judiciary Committee.
“If everything was aboveboard and nothing inappropriate happened, then why oppose the release of additional information?” Bardella said.
Republicans have been frustrated in attempts to keep the issue in front of voters, and the failed committee vote Wednesday scratches one more option off the list.
The party is still hoping for an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel, which is in charge of enforcing the Hatch Act, a violation of which can lead to the removal of federal employees from their jobs.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., sits on the House Judiciary Committee but left before the vote. Polis spokeswoman Lara Cottingham said her boss had to attend a session of the Rules Committee and that he was opposed to the GOP amendment.
(Source: Denver Post)