Freshman Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) today said a new effort by Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and other GOP leaders to prod the Obama administration into releasing Department of Justice documents is “too little, too late.” Quayle said the House should move quickly to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) sent a letter to Holder today demanding the release of more documents related to “Operation Fast and Furious,” a botched gun-smuggling investigation.
But Quayle, who is engaged in a competitive Republican primary in the border state of Arizona, dismissed the letter as prolonging the inevitable.
“The time has come to recognize the obvious: Attorney General Eric Holder has not and will not cooperate with this Congressional investigation. He has had many chances to do the right thing, and has refused each time,” Quayle said. “It’s time for action.”
At issue is Issa’s investigation of Fast and Furious, a 2010 program 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.
Quayle was one of six freshman lawamkers on the House Judiciary Committee who sent a letter on Thursday pressing leadership to hold bring a contempt of Congress resolution for Holder to the floor.
Instead, the leaders penned the letter to attorney general. Leaders met with Issa on Thursday morning.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Roll Call the letter was enough “for the moment.”
“It’s an abundance of caution,” Chaffetz said about the recent moves by GOP leaders. “They want to make sure that they can convey to everyone that they’ve been patient, bending over backwards trying to give them an opportunity to respond.”
In addition to the letter, Boehner also raised the issue briefly at a meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), a former chairman of the Oversight panel, said that indicated that the matter was on the Speaker’s “front burner.”
But the new requests stand in contrast to the draft contempt resolution, which Issa has unsuccessfully lobbied leadership to bring up for weeks.
Although sympathetic to Issa’s demands, leadership is wary of forcing the issue at this point with the Obama administration. 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 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, who was black.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.