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Moving on From Contempt Vote, or Not

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (right) and ranking member Elijah Cummings have clashed over the panel’s probe of “Fast and Furious.”

Holder and Cummings have said that the wiretap applications were not detailed enough for senior DOJ officials to be aware of the tactics used by agents in the operation. Issa has stated otherwise.

“The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border,” Issa’s May 24 letter to Cummings said.

An Issa spokesman dismissed the complaints as a partisan attack and accused CREW of having a liberal agenda.

“It is shameful that an organization purporting to support good and transparent government is instead making itself complicit in an effort to cover up a reckless government effort that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent,” Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said, returning to the lines of argument drawn in the weeks leading up to the contempt vote.

After Issa released his Countrywide report, there was some debate about whether it was an attempt to move on.

After weeks of Democratic attacks claiming Issa was engaged in a “witch hunt” to hurt Holder, and the president by “proxy,” the friendly fire was widely seen as timed to bolster an image of independence.

Aides said, however, releasing the report over the July Fourth recess was more about the timing of other events. With postal reform looming on the horizon, the committee moved to get the report out in the gap between the contempt vote and the postal fight.

Regardless, the wounds from the contempt battle are fresh. The debate over the contempt resolution in the Rules Committee and on the floor was bitter, culminating with a walk-out by Democratic Members.

At one point in the Rules Committee, things between Issa and Cummings got particularly heated, with Issa saying Cummings had failed to live up to a promise he made to the family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

“I believe Mr. Cummings has not lived up to his promise — I wish he had — to the Terry family. I believe in spirit he thinks he has. But in reality, the truth, the full truth, is too painful for, in fact, him to take on his own attorney general. And I think that’s one of the problems that goes on in every administration,” Issa said.

“In my 61 years of life, no one — no one ­ has ever questioned my integrity. You just did. And I resent what you said. I do. Deeply,” Cummings fired back.

The back-and-forth between the two men continued on the House floor, with parliamentary decorum being stretched to the limit at times.

Hill said Democrats’ “recent criticisms may have received more attention but are largely consistent with the partisan opposition to examining what went wrong and why the Justice Department, for 10 months, failed to withdraw false denials given to Congress.

“Throughout this time, however, the committee has found areas of bipartisan agreement on other matters,” Hill said. “Chairman Issa intends to continue his efforts to engage the minority in order to find common ground on oversight and policy matters before the committee.”

A spokeswoman for Cummings expressed a similar sentiment.

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