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Tsongas Statement on House Contempt Vote


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas issued the following statement regarding the House resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress.

"Fast and Furious was an ill-advised policy and a reckless undertaking by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). These types of dangerous gunrunning operations designed to track Mexican drug cartels date back to 2006 and tragically led to the loss of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent last year.

"In response to this tragedy, the Justice Department appropriately removed ATF's Acting Director and the U.S. Attorney in Phoenix for their roles in the botched operation. Additionally, the lead prosecutor in Operation Fast and Furious has also been replaced.

"The House Committee on Oversight and Investigations subsequently opened an investigation with the stated goal of determining responsibility for the operation and its tragic outcome. Congress has a responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of the Executive branch, however after months of hearings, the Oversight Committee has brought us no closer to providing answers in this tragedy. Republicans in charge of the Committee refused to call top officials at the ATF and at Justice to testify, including former Acting Director Kenneth Melson and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, leading even some conservative commentators to call into question their motivation.

"Today, House Republicans voted down a motion that would have instructed the Committee to consider that public testimony from the former directors of the ATF and top officials at the Justice Department, and moved forward with contempt resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder, even though the Department of Justice, which oversees the ATF, has cooperated with the investigation, turning over thousands of pages of documents at the Committee's request, and Attorney General Holder testified under oath on nine separate occasions before Congress on this matter.

"Furthermore, the justification offered for rushing through today's vote is over a very narrow band of documents. These documents, the Justice Department asserts, could potentially compromise their ongoing investigation into Fast and Furious, the successful outcome of which should be the goal for all parties. It is for these reasons that I voted against the contempt resolution today.

"Meanwhile, we are now just four days away from the expiration of job-creating federal transportation funding; we are four days away from nearly seven and a half million students seeing their loan rates double because Congress hasn't acted to stop it. I'd like to see bills on the House floor that address these pressing issues instead of the partisan resolution that was brought forward today."

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