What do the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Asian-Pacific American Caucus, and Progressive Caucus have in common? It looks like they all might be teaming up with the Congressional Black Caucus to walk out on this afternoon’s contempt vote. The groups will stand in solidarity with Eric “I frankly don’t know” Holder.
We’ll keep you posted as the situation develops.
UPDATE: There will be 50 minutes of debate, divided between Representative Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D., Md.).
Issa has opened the debate, quoting Pelosi: “Oversight is an institutional obligation to ensure against abuse of power; subpoena authority is a vital tour of that oversight.”
UPDATE: In his opening statement, Cummings argued that Republicans are “rushing to the floor” and “motivated by partisan politics.” This hearing is part of “one of the most highly politicized and reckless Congressional investigations in decades.” Some Republicans seem “almost giddy” about the vote, which is an “election-year witch hunt.”
UPDATE: Representative Mike Quigley (D., Ill.) argued that the vote is about “politics, not safety” because Republicans don’t oppose “the gun-show loophole” that, he said, lets anyone — even terrorists — buy guns without getting background checks first. “Tens of thousands of guns flow across our border every year because of those lax gun laws,” he said.
UPDATE: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said, “This is a sad day for the House of Representatives. It is an irresponsible day for the House of Representatives.” He and his colleagues in Congress are being asked to take “an action that has never been taken in the history of America” – holding a cabinet officer in contempt of Congress. Hoyer criticized the House Oversight and Government Reform’s management of the proceedings and said that “America is suffering” because House Republicans put confrontation over consensus.
Representative Raul Labrador (R., Idaho) on Holder: “Never in my life have I met a man more unconcerned with the search for the truth.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said that the Constitution requires Congress and Executive branch to “avoid unnecessary conflict” and seek accommodation. But that’s not what House Republicans are up to. Instead, “what they are doing is exploiting a very unfortunate circumstance.” She said she was “very moved” by the Congressional Black Caucus members’ move to walk out. “Perhaps that’s the best approach for us to take.”
UPDATE: Representative Cummings argued that the Constitution requires Congress and the executive branch to avoid “unnecessary conflict and deceit,” but House Republican leaders aren’t honoring those constitutional obligations. “It is fundamentally wrong to vote in favor of this resolution,” he argues, because Holder has been working with Congress in good faith.
In Representative Issa’s concluding statements, he said, “We’re here because when we asked legitimate questions about Brian Terry’s murder, about Fast and Furious, we were lied to.”
UPDATE: And the debate is done. Now there’s a fifteen-minute vote on a motion to refer back to the committee, introduced by Representative John Dingell (D., Mich.), which looks like it’s going nowhere. In other news, the man of the hour is in Disneyworld today.
UPDATE: In non-surprising news of the day, the motion to refer didn’t get any traction. Now they’re voting on the resolution recommending that the House find Holder in criminal contempt. It’s a five-minute vote, and a large number of Democrats are walking off the floor — C-SPAN says it’s in solidarity with the Congressional Black Caucus.
UPDATE: And the motion passes, 255-67, with 17 Democrats voting to hold the attorney general in contempt. Bipartisanship, Huzzah!
More than 108 Democrats walked off the floor in protest.
Holder defended himself, saying, “When concerns about Fast and Furious first came to light, I took action.” He said the political unpopularity of some of his decisions is the reason for the contempt vote, which he said was “a grave disservice” to Americans.