House Finds Attorney General Holder in Contempt of Congress
Holder First Sitting Cabinet Member Found in Contempt of Congress
Though bi-partisanship in Congress is rarer than the Dodo, today 17 Democratic members of the House of Representatives joined 238 Republicans to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to release documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The subpoenaed documents pertain to the ongoing investigation into the government-run gun-running program “Operation Fast and Furious” that resulted in the death of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry. Holder now holds the auspicious honor of being the first sitting Cabinet member to be held in contempt in history.
Despite the final bi-partisan outcome, the debate was anything but cordial.
“It’s important to remember how we got here,” Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a floor speech ahead of the vote. “The Justice Department has not provided the facts and information we requested. … It’s our constitutional duty to find out.”
The ex-Speaker and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “What is happening here is shameful.”
Pelosi argued that the move by House Republicans was politically motivated.
“These contempt charges aren’t about politics,” said Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla. “They aren’t about Attorney General Holder or President Obama or anything else but this: A man died serving his country and we have a right to know what the federal government’s hand was in that. It’s clear this country somehow played a role in his death. We need to root it out, find the cause, and make sure this never, ever happens again.”
The initial vote of criminal contempt will be referred to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who will decide whether to file charges against Holder. Most legal analysts do not expect Machen, an Obama appointee who ultimately answers to Holder, to take any action.
Civil Contempt Charge Increases Holder’s Woes
House members went on to pass a civil contempt measure 258-95 that allows the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to file a lawsuit asking the courts to examine the Justice Department’s failure to produce subpoenaed documents and challenge the validity of the administration’s recent assertion of executive privilege over the documents in question.
“Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided – and politically motivated – investigation during an election year,” Holder said after the vote. “By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.”
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