Today I joined more than a hundred of my colleagues in walking out of the House chamber to protest an unprecedented resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. This resolution, which contains errors, omissions, and mischaracterizations, appears to be part of a politically motivated campaign to smear the Attorney General and sets a new precedent in the use of House procedures for purely political purposes. This is the wrong road for Congress and the country to go down.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform says that Holder is withholding documents relevant to its investigation of Operation Fast and Furious and three other operations the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran between 2006 and 2011. In fact, the documents in question have nothing to do with the approval or administration of these operations. Instead, they relate to the Justice Department's deliberations on how best to correct a letter on Operation Fast and Furious that it sent Senator Chuck Grassley several months after Holder had shut down Fast and Furious.
By subpoenaing documents with such a tenuous connection to its investigation, the Committee appears to simply be fishing for material to embarrass the administration. While this is not the first time this has happened, a contempt resolution is a new level of overreaction, even if a majority of the House disagrees with the Justice Department's argument that releasing these documents would inhibit the candor of the Executive Branch's internal deliberations in the future. The only other time the Oversight Committee voted to hold a sitting cabinet member in contempt of Congress, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was not shy about using House proceedings for partisan purposes, found the move too extreme to merit a floor vote.
The House majority should take seriously its responsibility to ensure that the mistakes that led to the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry are not repeated. It should not spend more time insinuating that the Attorney General knew of or approved Operation Fast and Furious. All evidence suggests that when he learned about the operation he shut it down and ordered an investigation into the troubling activities begun by ATF under the previous administration.