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Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Holder Contempt Citation Business Meeting


Location: Washington, DC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We in Congress, and especially those of us who serve on the Oversight Committee, can get pretty passionate about our responsibilities.

We take our duties seriously, as we should.

When that passion increases to fervor, however, our interest in overseeing the federal government can sometimes get the better of us.

We can become so focused on what we originally wanted, that we can lose sight of the point of our inquiry.

And we have all experienced, I am sure, how our staff can sometimes become overzealous in their attempts to help us do our jobs.

When we take the time to investigate an allegation, and we spend money examining the issue, naturally we want to see results.

We want to get to the bottom of the problem.

And, of course, we often feel the need to show that we weren't wasting our time, or the taxpayers' resources.

But the test of leadership isn't about sticking to the plan no matter how badly it goes wrong. It isn't about seeing something through even though it's clearly a failure.

Successful leaders re-evaluate. They recognize when it's time to change course. When it's time to give up a plainly incorrect theory.

When it's time to admit one was wrong.

I was encouraged when the Majority, correctly, significantly narrowed the scope of the documents they demanded of the Justice Department. It would have been illegal for the Department to produce wiretap applications, grand jury testimony and information about confidential informants.

However, when one starts out with the presumption of guilt, of a cover-up -- as the Majority did when they began this investigation -- it's extremely difficult to admit when one is proven wrong.

And that's how this began: with the presumption of guilt on the part of the Administration, and in particular on the part of the Attorney General.

Not because of any evidence of wrongdoing. Not because of any facts that would warrant such an aggressive and partisan "investigation."

But because the Majority came into this Congress accusing the president of being the "most corrupt president in history."

They majestically promised seven investigatory hearings a week.

They predicted scandal after scandal after scandal would be uncovered and examined and confirmed.

And, one by one, the Majority held hearings on these so-called scandals.

And, one by one, these so-called scandals turned out to be anything but.

Grants weren't politicized. Waivers weren't granted inappropriately. Regulations weren't job-killing. Government employees weren't creating deficits. The NLRB wasn't a "rogue agency." The Administration really is for an "all of the above" energy policy.

But the one charge, the one allegation, the one so-called scandal that seemed to take hold, at least in the press that is favorable to the Majority, was Fast and Furious.

With sensational charges, reckless accusations, and by exploiting a tragedy, the Majority tried to create the scandal they were looking for.

They put all of their efforts into making this the smoking gun that would, once and for all, prove the Chairman's initial charge of a corrupt -- no, the most corrupt -- president in our history.

But in hearing after hearing after hearing, we have learned the opposite.

We have learned that the operation began in the Bush Administration, and that Attorney General Holder ended it.

We have learned that the Justice Department was not improperly withholding documents, but in fact were properly safeguarding our documents according to the law.

We have learned that instead of the wrongdoing, of the corruption, of the cover-up, that the Majority had promised to deliver, there was nothing of the sort on the part of the Attorney General.

And so, after being brought down this blind alley, we come to a decision point.

Will the Majority admit, or even accept, that they were wrong? Will they re-evaluate? Will they truly lead this Committee?

As I said, I was encouraged by the narrowed scope of the documents being demanded. That was a good first step towards bringing us out of this alley.

I urge this Committee to continue the re-evaluation of what has clearly turned out to be in fact not a scandal, not a cover-up.

I urge my colleagues to reject this citation."

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