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Darrell Issa Keeps Pursuing Contempt

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa is attempting to build support for a draft contempt of Congress resolution directed against Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the investigation of the “Fast and Furious” operation.

Faced with an initially lukewarm reception from top GOP leaders, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is looking to build support for a draft contempt of Congress resolution for Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Issa’s investigation of the “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation.

Issa has dispatched his lieutenants on the Oversight panel to lobby fellow Republicans on the issue and is working to garner support from a group of about 30 Democrats as well.

The California Republican is pushing the resolution because of what he says is a refusal by Holder to produce documents about Fast and Furious.

Speaker John Boehner expressed support for the effort last week but stopped short of endorsing the contempt resolution, saying, “All options are on the table.”

“Chairman Issa and members of his committee are doing a good job,” the Ohio Republican said. “I’m supporting their efforts to hold those people in the Justice Department accountable.”

Behind the scenes, Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have expressed reservations about the political impact of holding Holder in contempt.

“With the other issues, the economy and everything else, I think they would like to focus on that. I don’t think they’re opposed to going ahead with the contempt citation; it’s just that if we can get the Justice Department to move without having to move it, they would probably prefer that,” said Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who forged a reputation for aggressive oversight when he chaired Issa’s committee during the Clinton administration.

A GOP aide also warned against a racial backlash if Republicans are seen as unfairly targeting the first black attorney general, who is serving under the first black president. “Especially after Trayvon,” the aide said, referring to slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

However, there is a strong current of thought within the Conference running in the opposite direction: a belief that Holder and the Justice Department have been allowed to escape accountability.

Burton recently joked about Issa’s patience with the Justice Department during the investigation, saying he wouldn’t have waited nearly as long to move toward contempt.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said the contempt citation was “long overdue,” and Conference Secretary John Carter (Texas) released a strong statement backing Issa and unloading on Holder.

Carter, formerly a Texas district court judge, said if a county sheriff refused to produce documents under subpoena, he’d have thrown the sheriff in jail.

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