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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
I rise in strong opposition to these contempt resolutions.
I spent 6 years as an assistant U.S. attorney, and I have great admiration and respect for the hardworking men and women of the Department. I have great respect for our Attorney General, who I think has been a superb Attorney General and is a man of great integrity. I, like most Americans, would like to know about the facts of Fast and Furious, about the problem of guns crossing our border, about the horrendous violence to the south of our border. But what we do today will shed no light on that.
What we do today will not improve the situation in terms of gun violence that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Mexican citizens and that has claimed the lives of an increasing number of Americans. What we are doing today is simply a partisan abuse of the contempt power. Thirteen percent of the American people think highly of Congress, and today those 13 percent are wondering why. What we do will cause no injury to the Department, but it will cause great injury to this House.
The Justice Department, after providing 8,000 documents and extensive testimony, is now being required to turn over privileged materials; and like all administrations before it, it has reluctantly used executive privilege to respectfully refuse to provide materials it cannot provide. So now we are here, bringing a contempt motion against the Attorney General, who our committee chairman acknowledges was not aware of Fast and Furious. They don't expect any documents to show he was aware of Fast and Furious. Yet we are going to hold this Cabinet official in contempt?
That is an outrageous abuse of the contempt power. What will happen when this Congress actually needs to use the contempt power for a legitimate purpose? Will anyone still recognize it?
I urge the Speaker to withdraw this motion as, indeed, Speaker Gingrich withdrew the motion in his day and let the parties work it out. We both know, Democrats and Republicans, how this will end. It will end with a settlement in court months or years from now and with the Department's providing the same documents it's offering to provide today. Let's end this partisan exercise now.
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