House holds Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress
June 28, 2012
The House voted Thursday to place Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not complying with a congressional subpoena.
Seventeen Democrats bucked party lines and voted with Republicans to pass a criminal contempt resolution in a 255-67 vote. House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) pushed that resolution as part of his 16-month investigation into a botched Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.
Two Republicans voted no.
The Department of Justice is not expected to enforce the criminal contempt measure against Holder. But before the end of the day, the House was also expected to pass a separate resolution allowing the GOP House to pursue civil court action against Holder.
That second resolution could lead to a lengthy court battle if Issa pursues civil action against Holder.
While 17 Democrats sided with Republicans in the contempt vote, it was met with outrage from Democrats. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) joined by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and many other Democats staged a walkout during the vote as Democrats charged the GOP with staging a witch hunt against Holder that demeans the lower chamber.
Pelosi said during the debate that she would join the walkout, and told Democrats it's up to them whether to stay and vote against the resolution, or leave.
"So now I say to those who have a doubt about how they want to proceed, that instead of doing what I said before - which was just to come and to treat this as a bill before the Congress and express my no - listening to the unconscionable presentation, I want to join my CBC colleagues in boycotting the vote when we have the walkout after we have the debate," she said.
Several other Democrats also charged Republicans with making political hay against the Obama administration to help them in the November elections.
"When the history of this despicable proceeding is recorded, it will be said that your actions were politically motivated to discredit and defeat a president who has worked so hard over the past three years," Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) declared on the House floor during rule debate.
But Republicans decried Holder's refusal to hand over documents relating to the Justice Department's reaction to Operation Fast and Furious as nothing less than a "cover-up" and pointed to President Obama's assertion of executive privilege over the material as evidence of the administration's lack of transparency.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a rare appearance on the floor to call for support for the resolution.
"I don't take this matter lightly, and I frankly hoped it would never come to this," Boehner said about an hour before voting started.