House Democrats in front of the capitol after they walked out in protest of the contempt vote for Attorney General Eric Holder. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) at the mike.
The Vote Against Holder ‘Highly Politicized’
Last week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. in contempt of Congress, and according to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). “It was one of the most highly politicized and reckless congressional investigations in decades.” Notwithstanding, Holder is the first Black U.S. Attorney Generals and the first cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress.
Voting strictly along party lines, the House voted to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over the documents, even after President Barack Obama invoked his executive privilege authority and ordered Holder not to turn over materials about executive branch deliberations and internal recommendations.
The House Democrats walked out of the house chambers when the vote was called for in a massive protest of the Republican’s actions. Ironically, the vote came just after the U.S. Supreme Court handed President Obama a decisive victory in the landmark ruling of the Affordable Care Act.
The protest walkout included the Congressional Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, Progressive and Democratic Caucuses in order to express their strong opposition to this partisan activity. Earlier in the day, the House Democratic Caucus had voted unanimously to endorse the walkout. Some of the members said that the contempt hearing was a ruse and a distraction which prevented both houses in the Congress from their duty to pass legislation pertinent to the American people, as well as the Department of Justice from investigating and pursuing real crimes.
Attorney General Eric Holder issued the following statement in part:
“In recent months, the Justice Department has made unprecedented accommodations to respond to information requests by Chairman Issa about misguided law enforcement tactics that began in the previous administration and allowed illegal guns to be taken into Mexico. Department professionals have spent countless hours compiling and providing thousands of documents -- nearly 8,000 -- to Chairman Issa and his committee. My staff has had numerous meetings with congressional staff to try and accommodate these requests and yesterday, I met with Chairman Issa to offer additional internal Department documents and information that would satisfy what he identified as the Committee’s single outstanding question.
“The American people deserve better. That is why, I will remain focused on, and committed to, the Justice Department’s mission to protect the rights, safety, and best interests of my fellow citizens and to stand by my brave colleagues in law enforcement.”
Southern California’s three African American congresswomen had these words: MAXINE WATERS: “Eric Holder has responsibility for investigating these voter suppression efforts, and he has been paying some attention to Florida. Not only the right-wing element of the Republican party but the gun lobby jumped in and created a whole new story about [Fast and Furious] having been concocted in order to take away their guns.”
KAREN BASS: “I am proud to stand with my Democratic colleagues in Congress and behind Attorney General Holder and President Obama to oppose this outrageous attempt by my Republicans colleagues to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt. We’re witnessing an extremely partisan and irresponsible attack on the Attorney General that is based on lies and baseless claims. This egregious abuse of power by House Republicans distracts both Congress in their duty to pass legislation that is pertinent to the American people as well as the Department of Justice’s ability to investigate and pursue real crimes. No other cabinet official in U.S. history has been held in contempt of Congress and I join Democrats today as we refuse to play election-year politics when the American people need us the most.”
LAURA RICHARDSON: “This contempt vote and process was an example of abuse of power that I stood up against and stood for real justice. Contempt power should be used when one refuses to participate and for those that disobey the law. These are not the actions of U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Participation in unjust laws and actions is not what the framers of the constitution intended I oppose partisan tricks that waste precious floor time debating frivolous resolutions that delay this Congress from the important work of creating jobs for the unemployed, making education affordable, health care available and protecting the social safety net of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and assistance programs to vulnerable families.