WASHINGTON – All four Colorado House Republicans voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress because they believe his Justice Department has had enough time to hand over tens of thousands of pages of documents about the botched gunrunning operation.
None of the four lawmakers is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has investigated the Justice Department’s handling of the operation dubbed “Fast and Furious” that led to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Yet each lawmaker said Holder has failed to turn over key papers about the committee’s 18-month probe of the case.
“Actually this has been going on for a long time and he still hasn’t handed over the documents. He’s had enough time,” Rep. Mike Coffman of Lone Tree said in an interview, referring to Holder.
“Handing over 6,000 or 7,000 out of 80,000 documents is just a drop in the bucket,” Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs said in an interview, referring to the papers the Justice Department has given to the House Oversight Committee.
Both representatives Cory Gardner of Yuma and Scott Tipton of Cortez echoed those sentiments, saying the Attorney General has failed to come clean with Congress about the operation.
The lawmakers joined 234 of their GOP colleagues and 17 House Democrats in approving the contempt citation against Holder, the nation’s number-one law enforcement officer. The bill passed by a 255-to-67 margin with 108 Democrats abstaining.
Before the vote, House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged that the contempt citation would not help Republicans at the polls this fall. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) agreed. “It’s clearly an overreach,” he said.
Like Polis, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) voted in abstention. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Lakewood) voted against H.R. 711.
The House approved two contempt citations against Holder. It backed a criminal citation that authorizes the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to pursue a grand jury investigation of Holder. And it approved a civil citation that allows Congress to sue the Attorney General in federal court. The latter bill passed 258 to 95 with 74 abstaining.
The practical effect of both votes is unclear. For example, Coffman admitted that the U.S. Attorney for D.C. is unlikely to prosecute his boss or “one of his own.” Yet the symbolic effect of the votes resounded on Capitol Hill yesterday.
Before the House’s votes, more than 100 House Democrats walked off the House floor, exited through the main center door, and down the front steps of the Capitol in protest of the GOP-controlled House’s measures.
In addition, Issa held a hearing Thursday in which he implied that the nations’ top enforcement official is a liar.
The Washington Times reported on Friday that Issa revealed the details of a secret wiretap from the gunwalking operation in the Congressional Record. He said the wiretap showed that federal agents had abandoned surveillance of guns going to violent Mexican drug cartels and contradicted Holder’s claim that he knew nothing about the failure to track the guns.