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Recommending that Attorney General Eric Holder Be Found in Contempt of Congress

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Today, Mr. Speaker, is a historic day in many ways. On the one hand, in a landmark decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court upheld the health care bill, ensuring that millions of American families will finally have access to effective and affordable health care.

On the other hand, Republican leaders of the House of Representatives are about to plunge into the history books as some of the most extreme and partisan ever. Rather than working together in a bipartisan way to create jobs and help our Nation's economic recovery, they're rushing to the floor under emergency procedures with a contempt resolution that is riddled with errors and is motivated by partisan politics.

When I first heard about the allegations of gunwalking at ATF, I was outraged. I fully supported our committee's goals of finding out how it started, how it was used, and how it may have contributed to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. I made a personal commitment, which I will keep, to the Terry family to conduct a responsible and thorough inquiry.

But today's contempt vote is a culmination of one of the most highly politicized and reckless congressional investigations in decades. After receiving thousands of pages of documents from the Justice Department, conducting two dozen transcribed interviews, and hearing testimony from the Attorney General nine times, here are the facts:

First, the committee has obtained no evidence that the Attorney General authorized, condoned, or knew about gunwalking. Chairman Issa admitted this just yesterday before the Rules Committee. We've seen no evidence that the Attorney General lied to Congress or engaged in a coverup. We've seen no evidence that the White House had anything to do with the gunwalking operations--Chairman Issa admitted this on FOX News Sunday this past weekend.

Democrats wanted a real investigation. But Chairman Issa refused 10 different requests to hold a hearing with the director of ATF, the agency that ran these misguided operations. Let me say that again. During this entire investigation, no Member of the House has been able to pose a single question to the head of ATF at a public hearing.

How could you have a credible investigation of gunwalking at ATF and never hold a single hearing with the leadership of the agency in charge? The answer is, you can't.

Based on the documents, we now know that gunwalking, in fact, started in 2006. Yesterday, Chairman Issa said this about the misguided operations during the Bush administration: ``They were all flops. They were all failures.''

The committee has obtained documentary evidence that former Attorney General Mukasey was personally briefed on these botched interdiction efforts during his tenure and that he was told they would be expanded. Chairman Issa refused to call Mr. Mukasey for a hearing or even for a private meeting. During our committee's year and a half investigation, the chairman refused every single Democratic request for a witness.

Instead of taking any of these reasonable steps as part of a credible and even-handed investigation to determine facts, House Republican leaders rushed this resolution to the floor only 1 week after it was voted out of committee. In contrast, during the last Congress, House leaders continued to negotiate for 6 months to try to avoid contempt in the United States Attorneys investigation.

Mr. Speaker, some of my colleagues on the other side seem almost giddy about today's vote. After turning this investigation into an election year witch hunt, they have somehow convinced the Speaker to take it to the floor.

And they are finally about to get the prize they have been seeking for more than a year: holding the Attorney General of the United States of America in contempt.

They may view today's vote as a success, but in reality, it is a sad failure--a failure of House leadership, a failure of our constitutional obligations, and a failure of our responsibilities to the American people.


Mr. CUMMINGS. I yield myself 1 minute.

I want to say in response to the Speaker, we, too, are all saddened by the tragic death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry who gave his life in service to his country on December 15, 2010.

But, Mr. Speaker, despite what my colleagues have claimed, this contempt vote is not about getting documents that show how gunwalking was initiated and utilized in Operation Fast and Furious.

Now, the only documents in dispute are the documents created after Fast and Furious ended and after Brian Terry's death, but we pledge to continue to find all the answers with regard to the death of Brian Terry.

With that, I yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lynch), a member of the committee.


Mr. CUMMINGS. I will remind the gentleman that all of this started under President Bush.


Mr. CUMMINGS. I yield myself 15 seconds.

Again, the gentleman puts out statements in search of facts.


Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, as the Democratic leader said, there is no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the right and responsibility to investigate. But the Constitution also requires something else. It requires Congress and the executive branch to avoid unnecessary conflict and deceit, accommodations that serve both of their interests.

In this case, the Attorney General has testified nine times. He has provided thousands of pages of documents. He has provided 13 pages of deliberative internal documents, and he is willing to provide even more to me, the recent demands of Chairman Issa.

But House Republican leaders are not honoring their constitutional obligations. In fact, they are running in the wrong direction as quickly as possible. It is fundamentally wrong to vote in favor of this resolution at this time when the Attorney General has been working with the House in good faith. I believe this action will undermine the standing of the House, will cement the Speaker's legacy, and will be recorded by history as a discredit to this institution.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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