FoxNews: House panel backs contempt for Holder, Issa says floor vote can still be avoided
A House panel voted Wednesday in favor of holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, a move that inflamed partisan rancor on Capitol Hill and sets up the possibility of legal action against the attorney general himself.
Holder has not yet been formally held in contempt of Congress. The full House would still need to approve the resolution in order for that to happen — Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., afterward told Fox News that such a floor vote can still be avoided.
But the 23-17 party-line vote on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee marked a significant turn in lawmakers’ 16-month investigation into the botched anti-gunrunning operation Fast and Furious. With the vote, Republicans on the committee signaled they had exhausted all other means to extract sought-after documents from the Justice Department — though Democrats had insisted there was still an opportunity to sort out the mess without a contempt vote.
“We and the American people need answers sooner, not later,” said Issa, chairman of the committee.
GOP House leadership has given Issa the green light to proceed how he sees fit, sources told Fox News, which suggests the vote would reach the House floor.
Issa pressed ahead with the vote Wednesday despite an eleventh-hour move by President Obama to assert executive privilege over the Fast and Furious documents at the heart of the dispute.
Preceding the committee vote late Wednesday afternoon was a caustic debate that spanned six hours, as Democrats accused Issa of prosecuting a “political witch hunt” and Republicans stepped up their criticism of Holder’s “stonewalling” over the Fast and Furious probe. Even for Washington, the tone at the hearing was decidedly bitter and accusatory.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., shouted while rattling off his complaints against the Justice Department.
On the other side, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking Democrat on the committee, offered an impassioned defense of the attorney general even as he and other Democrats acknowledged Fast and Furious was severely flawed.
“I don’t think he’s hiding a damn thing,” Cummings said of Holder shortly before the contempt vote.
Democrats roundly voiced disappointment with the proceedings, describing them as politically motivated and avoidable. They pleaded with Issa to seriously consider Obama’s executive privilege claim — the first Obama has asserted — while some said Holder was being punished for withholding internal documents he shouldn’t be turning over anyway.
Republicans praised Issa for pressing ahead, describing the vote as entirely unavoidable considering the department’s alleged refusal to cooperate. They frequently invoked the name of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry — Fast and Furious-linked guns were found at the scene of Terry’s murder in 2010. And Issa indicated he was waiting for a more detailed explanation from the White House, and a letter from Obama himself, before even considering changing course based on the executive privilege claim……Read More
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