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The swiftness with which House Republican leaders scheduled a floor vote on holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress — coming mere minutes after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the contempt citation Wednesday — demonstrated the increasing velocity of the biggest constitutional crisis in years.
House Republicans dismissed President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over “Fast and Furious” documents Wednesday as the Oversight panel approved the contempt report on a party-line vote, 23-17.
Within moments, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) scheduled a floor vote for next week.
The move also underscored an escalating tension on Capitol Hill that is likely to get worse as the Supreme Court is set to issue its ruling on the Affordable Care Act next week and lawmakers face June 30 deadlines on a transportation reauthorization bill and student loan interest rates.
Holder could provide the documents demanded by Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.), ending the contempt proceedings,
Boehner and Cantor said.
“While we had hoped it would not come to this, unless the Attorney General re-evaluates his choice and supplies the promised documents, the House will vote to hold him in contempt next week,” the leaders said.
But more likely is a protracted court battle.
Obama asserted executive privilege on the documents minutes before the hearing on the contempt report began, surprising Issa. It was the first time Obama asserted the privilege. As a Senator, he criticized then-President George W. Bush for utilizing it.
It prompted a swift reaction from Republicans, who accused Obama of Nixonian tactics aimed at covering up what his administration knew and when about the operation that allowed hundreds of guns to be bought by Mexican gangs — two of which were found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder.
“The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “The administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”
The White House threw back at the GOP a variation of Boehner’s favorite attack line: Where are the jobs?
“Instead of creating jobs or strengthening the middle class, Congressional Republicans are spending their time on a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election-year fishing expedition,” White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer scolded.
Pfeiffer dismissed gun-walking as “a field-driven tactic that dated back to the previous administration” and credited Holder with ending it.