WASHINGTON, DC – The top Republican leading the House investigation into Operation Fast and Furious said Sunday he expects a “bipartisan” floor vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this coming week.
“I believe they will (vote to hold him in contempt),” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told “Fox News Sunday.” “Both Republicans and Democrats will vote that — I believe it will be bipartisan.”
Issa kept his focus on the Justice Department, clarifying that he has no evidence the White House was involved in any Fast and Furious cover-up. But he repeatedly said Congress is trying to get to the bottom of why the Justice Department “lied” about the operation.
The comments underscored the apparent momentum among majority House Republicans behind the contempt push, following a committee contempt vote against Holder along party lines this past week. That vote proceeded after Holder and Republicans were unable to reach an agreement over subpoenaed documents pertaining to the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious discussions.
Issa said Sunday it’s possible the vote could be delayed or even “eliminated” if the administration produces the subpoenaed documents the House is seeking. He noted the entire schedule is at the discretion of House Speaker John Boehner.
“But we have to see the documents first,” he said.
Barring such a resolution, Issa and his allies are teeing up a major election-year clash this coming week between the Executive and Legislative branches, and between Democrats and Republicans.
President Obama intervened this past week, invoking executive privilege to protect the documents in question, but Republicans dismissed the claim and proceeded with the contempt vote. On the sidelines, minority House Democrats are pleading with Republicans take a step back and work out the document dispute without the threat of contempt. At the same time, both sides are antagonizing each other at the dais and in the press over what Democrats claim has become a political “witch hunt.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, R-Md., ranking Democrat on the oversight committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that the confrontation was entirely avoidable.
“I think it’s extremely unfortunate,” he said. “The attorney general has made it clear that he is willing to work with this Congress.”
Cummings called on Boehner to intervene and try to reach an agreement with Holder that involves turning over some documents while also halting the contempt proceedings.
“I think that we have a duty … at this critical moment to get the documents,” he said. “I know we can get them. It’s just a matter of sitting down and talking to Holder.”
Cummings suggested the course of the committee’s investigation has lost sight of one of the major reasons for the probe — the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, whose murder scene included weapons from the Fast and Furious operation.
But Issa defended the escalation, saying the committee is trying to obtain critical documents to help explain why Congress was initially told — incorrectly — in February 2011 that the government did not knowingly let guns “walk” across the U.S.-Mexico border. The department later issued a correction to that statement.
“We, in fact, are simply trying to get to the truth when we were told a lie,” Issa said. “It’s about the cover-up.”
“Ultimately, Justice lied to the American people on February 4 (2011), and they didn’t make it right for 10 months.”