On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first sitting Attorney General and presidential Cabinet member in U.S. history to be cited for contempt by the full House. The 255-67 contempt citation is final and requires no vote in the Senate. Upset Democrats could neither cast votes against the motion against their conscience, nor could they vote for the motion to support what was held right by the majority. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi saved their situation by organizing a walkout from the House floor in symbolic protest. In total, 108 Democrats refused to cast their votes either for or against the motion. But at the end, 17 Democrats chose to support the motion and vote for it while two Republicans voted against. Immediately following the citation of contempt by the full House, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, being an expert on such things, said the motion was “a transparently political stunt.”
The House also voted 258-95 on a resolution asking U.S. courts to compel Holder turn over documents sought by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as part of its long-running investigation of ‘Fast and Furious.’
The situation came to this stage because of the initial denials by the Justice Department about the program that allowed powerful guns to filter into Mexico. Later the DOJ retracted its contention. According to official figures, between 2007 and 2011, at least 68,000 firearms out of 99,000 recovered in Mexico showed U.S. origins. In recent years the numbers of high-powered rifles had gone up. By early 2011 it became clear that federal agents could not account for the firearms they had supplied across the border and the operation ‘Fast and Furious’ was abandoned. But it did not happen before the use of those weapons was proved in several crimes including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Darell Issa, the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said that the contempt vote was held “because when we asked legitimate questions … about Fast and Furious, we were lied to. We were lied to repeatedly and over a 10-month period.”
However, Democrat Nanci Pelosi said, “This is something that makes a witch hunt look like a day at the beach … It is a railroading of a resolution that is unsubstantiated by the facts.” The facts, of course some hold, have been stopped from being discovered by exercise of the President’s executive privilege.