Because there wasn’t enough news today, the House of Representatives has voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. This is the first time a sitting cabinet member has been held in contempt in US history.
The final vote was a thin 255-67. That’s because 108 House Democrats did not vote on the measure, walking out in protest. This included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and third in command James Clyburn. Of those who remained, 65 Democrats voted no, 17 voted yes on contempt, and 1, Dan Lipinski (D-IL), voted “present.” Only two Republicans, Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and Scott Rigell (R-VA), voted against the contempt resolution, with 238 in the affirmative and 1 (Jerry Lewis of California) not voting.
17 aye votes from Democrats is actually lower than what even Democratic leaders were predicting. The NRA announced they would score the vote and go after those who voted against it, which pushed pro-gun Democrats into the aye column, particularly in an election year. But less succumbed to that than expected. Here are the 17:
Altmire, Barrow, Boren, Boswell, Chandler, Critz, Donnelly, Hochul, Kind, Kissell, Matheson, McIntyre, Owens, Peterson, Rahall, Ross, Walz.
Altmire, Boren and Ross are all out of Congress at the end of the year. For the rest, electoral concerns probably played a major role.
In a statement attributed to Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, the White House condemned the contempt vote.
At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced one of their top priorities was to investigate the Administration and to ensure that President Obama was a one-term President. Despite the major economic challenges facing the country, they talked openly about devoting taxpayer-funded, Congressional oversight resources to political purposes.
The problem of gunwalking was a field-driven tactic that dated back to the George W. Bush Administration, and it was this Administration’s Attorney General who ended it. Attorney General Holder has said repeatedly that fighting criminal activity along the Southwest Border – including the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexico has been is a top priority of the Department. Eric Holder has been an excellent Attorney General and just yesterday the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee acknowledged that he had no evidence – or even the suspicion – that the Attorney General knew of the misguided tactics used in this operation.
Yet, Republicans pushed for political theater rather than legitimate Congressional oversight. Over the past fourteen months, the Justice Department accommodated Congressional investigators, producing 7,600 pages of documents, and testifying at eleven Congressional hearings. In an act of good faith, this week the Administration made an additional offer which would have resulted in the Committee getting unprecedented access to documents dispelling any notion of an intent to mislead. But unfortunately, a politically-motivated agenda prevailed and instead of engaging with the President in efforts to create jobs and grow the economy, today we saw the House of Representatives perform a transparently political stunt.
The aftermath of this is really nothing other than an historical stain on the record of this Attorney General. The US Attorney from DC will not end up charging Holder with a crime. The House may also go to court to try to get their subpoenas enforced on certain documents related to their investigation of the Fast and Furious scandal. The contempt resolution wasn’t necessarily needed for that. But I wouldn’t mind seeing an adjudication of executive privilege in this case.