Six freshman members of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday called on GOP leadership to bring a contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder to the House floor, charging he has “thwarted and obstructed” Congress’ efforts to conduct Congressional oversight of the "Operation Fast and Furious" gun-running program.
In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.); Reps. Sandy Adams (Fla.), Ben Quayle (Ariz.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Dennis Ross (Fla.), Tom Marino (Pa.) and Trey Gowdy (S.C.) argued that “the House of Representatives has seen its proper oversight function thwarted and obstructed. It's time for the House to formally recognize the obvious — that Attorney General Holder has not and will not cooperate with the legitimate investigation launched by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is therefore in contempt of Congress.”
For weeks, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) has unsuccessfully lobbied leadership to allow contempt proceedings to begin against Holder.
At issue is Issa’s investigation of Operation Fast and Furious, a 2010 gun-smuggling investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In the operation, ATF agents allowed guns to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on high-powered weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels.
In their letter, the freshmen complain that Holder has not cooperated enough, arguing that “Attorney General Holder has continually failed to produce thousands of valuable documents that have been requested by both the Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When documents are produced, many are heavily redacted beyond recognition.
"We should not allow Attorney General Holder’s failure to do his job prevent us from doing ours. We have a duty to the American people that must be fulfilled,” the freshmen added.
The display of support from the freshmen could boost Issa’s negotiating position with leadership, which has thus far resisted his demands to have his draft resolution brought to the floor.
Although sympathetic to Issa's demands, leadership is wary of forcing the issue at this point with the Obama administration, and sources familiar with the situation said Boehner and his team are sensitive to any appearance that they are launching a partisan witch hunt or might be adversely affecting ongoing criminal investigations.
A request for comment from Boehner's office was not immediatley returned.