Americans just got to witness an all-too-rare occurrence in Washington: an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote on a commonsense resolution.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously, 420-0, on a resolution calling on the Justice Department to make public the full report from the Mueller investigation once it is complete. Only four members, all Republicans, refused to vote for it, choosing instead to vote “present,” for whatever reason helps them sleep at night.
It would send an even stronger message if the Senate passed a similar resolution, allowing the entire Congress to declare in one loud, bipartisan, and near-unanimous voice that the Mueller report MUST become public. Thus far however, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up any bill or resolution aimed at protecting the Mueller investigation, so nobody hold your breath just yet.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans want the Mueller report to become public, so the House vote puts all but four members squarely in line with public sentiment. I can guarantee there are lots of Republicans in swing districts who’ll go home this weekend, puff their chests, and brag to their constituents that they took a tough vote, stood up to this president, and demanded the transparency that voters clearly want.
Maybe they think that’s enough, but before breathing a sigh of relief, Republican members of Congress should be mindful that they aren’t out of the woods yet. The resolution they passed this week sent a message, but it held no force of law.
The true test of the Republicans’ mettle here will come if the Justice Department decides not to release all or part of the Mueller report. In that event, every representative – regardless of party – will have an obligation to hold the administration accountable and follow-through on their symbolic vote. It won’t be enough for a Republican to throw up his or her hands and say, “Well, I think the report should be public, but there’s nothing else I can do,” as I suspect all too many of them will do.
As for the four brave souls who voted “present,” including unwavering Trump lackeys Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., it will only get harder for them to weasel out of actually picking a side. Of course, maybe I’m not giving the other side enough credit. After all, based on the vote tally, House Republicans are more unified about making the Mueller report public than just about anything else. Heck, even repealing ObamaCare got a few “no” votes.
Either way, make no mistake – the battle over the release of the Mueller report is going to get worse before it gets better. I suspect President Trump will only want a portion of it released – a summary memo of some sort, that he’ll argue proves his point that there was “no collusion,” even if in fact it does no such thing, just as he’s done during the Manafort sentencing.
The truth is, none of us knows what’s in the Mueller report or how damning it may be, which is what actually makes this vote meaningful. It’s a strong declaration that says, “I don’t know what’s going to come out, but whatever it is, the American people have a right to know.”
What remains to be seen once the report is completed is whether Republican members of Congress who voted for transparency will stand by their words, or by their man.