House Committee to vote on contempt measure against Eric Holder
After months of unanswered questions, stalling, and obstruction in the congressional inquiring into Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF’s botched gunwalking scheme; Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have scheduled a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder:
The House Oversight and Government reform committee announced Monday that it will vote on a “contempt of Congress” motion against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder “for his failure to produce documents” related to the department’s knowledge of Fast and Furious, which the panel subpoenaed in October.
The announcement ends a brief detente between the two branches over Fast and Furious. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to stave off a contempt vote by pressuring the White House directly to turn over thousands of pages of documents, but the Justice Department has not complied.
Aides told The Washington Examiner that the committee’s statement could be a last-ditch effort to get Holder to cough up the documents. The statement includes this line: “If the Attorney General decides to produce these subpoenaed documents, I am confident we can reach agreement on other materials and render the process of contempt unnecessary.”
Last week, Holder and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., engaged in an angry exchange over the documents at a hearing, with Holder telling Issa he believes the department has released enough information. Issa responded by telling Holder, “You’re not a good witness.”
The panel is stacked in favor of Republicans, 22 to 16, so it’s likely the committee will vote Holder in contempt, but it remains unclear where the charge will go beyond Issa’s committee.
Operation Fast and Furious was a disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately, the guns that were allowed to walk across the border and into the hands of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels wound up being used in the deaths of more than 100 people, including Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
There is certainly a lot of blame to go around, but it’s not limited to Holder; though responsibility ultimately falls on him given that ATF is under the Justice Department. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) has explained that the failure of the Senate and President Barack Obama to agree on a permanent head of ATF has led to inadequate leadership since the appointment to head the agency became subject to confirmation in 2006.
With that said, Holder was dishonest in his testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in stating back in May 2011 that he had only recently become aware Fast and Furious. DOJ memos, however, show that Holder knew about it some 10 months prior.
There has been speculation, as Tom Knighton noted last year, that the Obama Administration had other motives behind Fast and Furious. That the spread of guns from the United States to Mexico for use in that country’s violent drug war would provide Obama with political leverage to make guns sales more difficult. It’s becoming increasingly hard not to believe that there were other motivations behind the operation other than selling guns to straw purchasers, including convicted felons, and allowing them to cross the border simply to track them, which has been the DOJ’s defense.
The bottomline here is someone has to pay the price for the failed operation. That person is Eric Holder, whether you like it or not. There may be circumstances that made ATF disfuctional that were out of his control, but Holder hasn’t done much to convince anyone that it was simply a botched operation.