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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. CLARKE of New York. Mr. Speaker, I am disheartened by the Republican majority's decision to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt and am deeply concerned with the partisan basis of this investigation.

For the first time in the history of the United States House of Representatives, a Cabinet official, in this case an Attorney General has been held in contempt of Congress--simply for doing his job. This act is a deliberate misuse of power which I hope will be challenged.

In the previous sessions of Congress, the Oversight Committee has been a watchdog, ensuring that our Government works as effectively and efficiently as possible. Whether it was investigating our government's failed response to Hurricane Katrina, or investigating our government's role in the financial crisis, the Oversight Committee has been at the forefront of issues that concern the American people.

However, during this 112th Congress, the Oversight Committee's leadership has pressed for an investigation, requesting irrelevant documents, and narrowly focusing his inquiries on the current Attorney General's continuation of a program established long before his tenure.

Attorney General Holder has cooperated with the Oversight Committee's investigation, providing thousands of documents on the operation. However, after finding no wrongdoing, the Oversight Committee's leadership remains unsatisfied with its investigation into the Department of Justice.

This political showboating has forced the President to get involved and invoke executive privilege, an implied Constitutional power given to the President, because the Framers deemed it important that the President and his Officers were given the freedom to act candidly under certain circumstances, primarily with regard to foreign policy and national security.

Our system of government depends on a separation of powers that allows Congress to enact laws and the President to execute these laws, as mandated by Article 1 and Article 2 of the Constitution. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has decided to interfere with the authority of the Attorney General, who was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by a bipartisan majority of the Senate, to implement policy.

In addition, the vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt indicates that many in Congress are more interested in preventing President Obama and the officials he has appointed from fulfilling their duties than in talking about the issues that matter to the American people.

We are not debating proposals to create jobs today. We are not debating immigration reform. Why? Republicans have decided to investigate the internal deliberations of the Department of Justice, a 15-month investigation that has not revealed any misconduct--an investigation by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform with which Attorney General Holder has cooperated. This vote creates a dangerous precedent for the future.

This is not the time for politics or games. We have all taken an oath to serve the American people and today's vote is a disservice to the women and men whose interests have been repeatedly ignored. I am certain that the millions of Americans, who want to restore our economic prosperity, share my disappointment.

With this in mind, I urge all of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to walk out in opposition to or oppose the vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Cooperation between Congress and the Executive Branch, as a matter of national security, should not be a partisan issue.

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