Editor’s Note – In the other big news of the day, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. was held in contempt of Congress, both civilly and criminally. This gives the Oversight Committee several options in their next moves to expedite this now severely drawn-out investigation.
Much is to come in a closer look at the lengthy exercise that was conducted today, especially to address just who said what. Many claims were aired, both right and left, but ultimately the truth will come out, both about the politics, and about the investigation.
The vote was 255 ayes, 67 nays, and 1 present vote for the criminal charge, and the House has also voted to hold Holder in civil contempt, 258 to 95. There was a definite bipartisan vote on both issues and many walked out and did not vote at all.
In her speech, she also stumbled over Brian Terry’s name and Representative John Dingell of Michigan was roundly rebuked after he claimed to represent the Terry family which he never had contact with prior.
The House on Thursday cited Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for contempt of Congress in a historic vote weighted with political significance, though it does little to break the stalemate over his decision to withhold documents over the Justice Department’s actions in a botched gun-walking operation.
The 255-67 vote amounted to a political spanking for Mr. Holder and President Obama, and 17 Democrats joined with Republicans in demanding the documents be released. Most Democrats, however, walked out in protest of the vote.
It marks the first time an attorney general has been held in contempt by a chamber.
But the White House dismissed the proceedings as a sideshow, and the vote does nothing to break the impasse, though it further poisoned feelings in an already bitterly divided chamber.
Democrats pleaded with the Republicans to slow down the proceedings, saying the oversight committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican, has done a shoddy job in putting together its investigation.
Many Democrats walked out of the contempt vote in protest, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the vote was a black eye for the Republicans.
“Just when you think you have seen it all. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly go any further over the edge, they come up with something like this,” she said. “What is happening here is shameful.”
Democrats also tried to force the matter back into Mr. Issa’s committee, but the House defeated that motion.
As issue is the oversight committee’s investigation into Fast and Furious, an operation intended to track sales of U.S. guns and watch the guns be shipped across the border to a Mexican drug cartel, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lost track of the roughly 2,000 weapons after they were sold.
Some of the guns eventually began showing up at crime scenes, including two that were recovered at the site of a 2010 Arizona shootout that left Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry dead.
Mr. Holder shut down the operation, but his efforts to clean up after it have come under scrutiny. The Justice Department initially told Congress it never knowingly lost track of guns, but after whistleblowers made it clear that this was false, Mr. Holder had to withdraw that claim.
The Justice Department has turned over documents about the actual gun-walking operation, but have refused to turn over documents about how it handled the false information it provided to Congress. Last week President Obama asserted executive privilege, arguing those documents are protected by precedent that governs internal deliberations.