The House Oversight Committee on a party-line vote of 23 to 17 has found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to the controversial Fast and Furious gun-trafficking program. It is the first contempt citation for a cabinet member in 14 years. Now Speaker John Boehner must decide whether to bring it to the House floor for a full vote.
In a statement following the hearing, Holder said the Justice Department has made an "unprecedented" effort to accommodate committee chairman Darrell Issa's demands for information about the operation, which he says are actually an attempt to cause problems between Congress and the White House.
"This divisive action does not help us fix the problems that led to this operation or previous ones and it does nothing to make any of our law enforcement agents safer," Holder said in a statement. "It's an election-year tactic intended to distract attention — and, as a result — has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority at the Department of Justice: Protecting the American people."
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Oversight Committee's top Democrat, agrees that Issa is playing partisan politics and called the panel's actions extreme.
“What we just witnessed was an extreme, virtually unprecedented action based on election year politics rather than fact,” said Cummings, adding it also would be extreme if Boehner were to bring the measure to the House floor. But both Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are standing behind Issa, and in a joint statement after the hearing said that unless Holder "re-evaluates his choice and supplies the promised documents, the House will vote to hold him in contempt next week."
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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)