By Matthew Boyle | Published: 4:54 PM 06/28/2012
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over his failure to provide Congress with subpoenaed Operation Fast and Furious documents.
Seventeen Democrats joined most House Republicans in the effort to hold Holder in contempt. Two Republicans — Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell and Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette — voted against the measure and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi led a walkout of many members of her caucus.
Pelosi held the hand of House oversight committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings — one of Holder’s most ardent defenders — on the way out.
Holder is now in criminal contempt of Congress.
UPDATE 5:30 p.m.: The House has passed a resolution to hold Holder in civil contempt of Congress as well, again with bipartisan support. The civil contempt resolution allows the House to pursue legal recourse to enforce its subpoena because the criminal contempt resolution passed earlier in the day is referred to Holder’s deputy Ron Machen, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for enforcement. Machen isn’t expected to enforce it.
House judiciary committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith said in a statement that the “vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress is unprecedented, but unfortunately so are the obstructionist actions of this Justice Department.”
“The Attorney General continues to put himself above the law by refusing to cooperate with legitimate congressional inquiries,” Smith said. “For more than a year and a half, this Administration has blocked inquiries and delayed responses about what really happened in Operation Fast & Furious. The President’s recent assertion of Executive Privilege covers communication between top Executive staff. The Administration cannot claim that top officials were not aware of the program and then assert this privilege. They can’t have it both ways. Either no senior staff was aware of Fast & Furious, in which case Executive Privilege does not apply; or senior staff was aware, which means the Administration has not been truthful with Congress.”