U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
Tri-Caucus Chairs Condemn Chairman Issa's Partisan Attempt to Hold Attorney General Holder in Contempt of Congress
Last week, in the latest example of political posturing, the House of Representatives' Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not producing certain documents relating to the "Fast and Furious" program of providing guns to drug gangs and tracking their use in Mexico. The White House, meanwhile, cited executive privilege to withhold requested documents.
The procedural vote by the Oversight Committees appears to have been taken merely for embarrassment value in an election year. The last time I checked, the American people elect members of Congress and expect the Department of Justice to handle matters of national importance that affect their everyday lives.
Therefore, we, the people, hold Congress in contempt for partisan pettiness. We hold Congress in contempt for seeking individual power over the people's priorities and for hypocrisy in voting for a higher form of health care for themselves than for most Americans. We also hold Congress in contempt for cowardly employing a filibuster rather than doing so in the ambient of public debate.
This latest move by obstinate and obstructionists in Congress is pure posturing. Ironically, the issue may end up being decided by the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. To ask the attorney general to investigate his department when documents show that the Fast and Furious program was a low-level, botched operation is ridiculous. When Holder learned about the program, he stopped it.
The Senate is no better in addressing the priorities of the public largely because of the legislative roadblock known as the filibuster. The filibuster is a legislative procedure that originated as the "Previous Question" law in England. Since American law is base on British Common Law, the filibuster found its way through the halls of Congress around 1800. Aaron Burr raised the use of the filibuster after he raised his revolver and killed Alexander Hamilton in a deadly duel
Simply put, the filibuster allows one political party (usually the minority) to circumvent the majority rule of 51 percent in the Senate by requiring a "super majority." The House, on the other hand, allows 51 percent to rule. Our nation teaches grade-school students that "the majority rules." Unlike the House, the United States Senate has its own rules where a "super majority" (60 votes) is needed to pass legislation on a routine basis.
While a Super Majority should be necessary for war, impeachment, and other important issues or "high crimes," using the back room filibuster is neither transparent nor effective. What results is political gridlock nearly impossible to explain to a 7-year-old.
One policy solution is to gradually outlaw filibuster, with an effective date two years away, thus avoiding partisan ploys to benefit a political party instead of the public interest.
The latest Congressional spectacle reminds me of the movie, "Dog Day Afternoon" in which, after being excoriated by a sitting judge as "...out of order." Al Pacino's character righteously retorts, "No, your honor, you are out of order! The entire system is out of order!" Today, if I may speak for all Americans of reason, Congress is out of order, and should be held in contempt. Moreover, on November 6, the contempt of common people should be directed to the voting booth to remove recalcitrant our representatives in Congress.
The chair-persons of three of the Congress' caucuses issued the following:
Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II
"This is a sad day in the history of the United States Congress. Today, we see the great lengths to which some of my colleagues will go in an attempt to discredit the Attorney General--a member of President Obama's Administration--as we near the 2012 election. For over 15 months, Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice has cooperated with the Committee's inquiry. The Obama Administration is now rightfully asserting executive privilege over the narrow subset of documents that remain at issue--the same process President Bush used six times during his presidency.
"Just yesterday, the Attorney General participated in a bicameral meeting with Chairman Issa, Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and Ranking Member Cummings in a good faith effort to fully satisfy the Committee's information requests, which Department officials have been working for months to fulfill, but somehow their work is not enough. The United States House of Representatives has never in its history held an Attorney General in contempt.
"During this critical moment in our nation's history, the attention of our country's chief law enforcement officer should be focused on addressing ongoing law enforcement challenges and championing real issues, instead of being distracted by manufactured, partisan political ones. This is an extremely low moment in our body politic. The cause for civility has been met by an unnecessary and unfortunate partisanship."
Chairman Charles A. Gonzalez
"Congress must exercise its authority responsibly and in the interest of the American people, not to score partisan political points. The Justice Department and Attorney General Holder have provided the Committee leadership with unprecedented access to the documents it requested; yet Rep. Issa refuses to be reasonable. When partisan advantage is the primary motivation, it's really the American people who suffer.
"Attorney General Holder continues to act in good faith, but the Republican chairman of the committee has made a decision to pursue the extreme measure of initiating contempt proceedings. This is a waste of time for the Committee, the DOJ and the American people."
Chairwoman Judy Chu
"What the American people are witnessing today is politics at its worst. As we inch closer and closer to the 2012 election, Congressional Republicans are trying to blemish the career of a respected public servant in an attempt to discredit the Administration.
"Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice have already provided thousands of pages of pertinent documents and testimonies from numerous top officials. Just yesterday, the Attorney General met with Committee Members in an effort to meet their requests. He is, and has been, cooperating in good faith, despite the egregious charges being leveled against him.
"Congress has never before held an Attorney General in contempt, and this situation clearly does not meet the threshold for setting such a bold new precedent. The Attorney General and the U.S. Congress have more important issues to address, and these political distractions only leave the American people less safe."
NAACP Condemns Extremist Political Attacks on Attorney General Eric Holder
"The politicians behind these charges are the same ones who tried to add riders to the Department of Justice's appropriations bill that would restrict resources to fight racial profiling and enforce voting rights and labor rights," stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "These unwarranted charges are a distraction to the Justice Department's work of defending civil rights. Too much is at stake to allow justice to be delayed or denied for the sake of political posturing."