House Votes A.G. Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress

The House of Representatives voted 255-67 on Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to the "Fast and Furious" investigation.

Seventeen Democrats joined 238 Republicans in passing the measure. Only two Republicans voted against it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not vote. Instead, she led a walkout in protest of the contempt charge. In total, 108 Democrats and two Republicans did not vote, but it is not clear how many of those participated in the walkout versus those who were not in attendance for other reasons.

"We're here because when we asked legitimate questions about Brian Terry's murder, about 'Fast and Furious,' we were lied to," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has led the investigation as chair of the House Oversight Committee. "We were lied to repeatedly and over a 10 month period. The fact is that is what we're here for."

Pelosi accused Republicans of lying about the facts and engaging in a hyper-partisan, election year exercise.

"The fact is," Pelosi said, "that the chief legal officer of our country and his staff has to spend enormous energy, psychic, intellectual and time, dealing with this unprincipled effort on the part of Republicans.

"Just when you think you have seen it all. Just when you think they couldn't possibly go any further over the edge, they come up with something like this. It's stunning. It really is. And I don't mean that as in it's beautiful. It's stunning. It stops you in your tracks because you say, how far will they go? Have they no limits? Apparently not."

The charge of extreme partisanship was also leveled by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.

"Republican leaders of the House of Representatives are about to plunge into the history books as some of the most extreme and partisan ever," Cummings said, "rather than working together in a bipartisan way to create jobs and help our nation's economic recovery, they're rushing to the floor, under emergency procedures, with a contempt resolution that is riddled with errors and motivated by partisan politics."

The contempt charge came after Holder continually refused to hand over documents relating to the period when the Justice Department misinformed the committee about the "Fast and Furious" program.

"Fast and Furious" was an undercover operation that sold weapons to drug dealers and other criminals. The weapons were not tracked and some were found at the scene of a shootout in which Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.

In February 2011, the Justice Department sent a letter to a member of Congress saying that no weapons were sold that were not tracked. In December 2011, the Justice Department admitted that was not true, there were weapons that were sold under the program that were not tracked.

The Oversight Committee has asked Holder for emails relating to internal Justice Department communications regarding the "Fast and Furious" program in that period.

In response to the accusations of partisanship, Republicans countered that if Holder turned over the documents the contempt vote would be unnecessary.

"Our fellow citizens have a right to know the truth and we have an obligation to fight for it, Mr. Speaker, the politics be damned," Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said. "We have a right to fight for it.

"I wish the attorney general would give us the documents. I would rather have the documents than have this vote on contempt of Congress, but we cannot force him to do the right thing and that does not relieve us of the responsibility for us to do the right thing. Even if the Heavens may fall, Mr. Speaker, I want the truth. I want all of it. We should never settle for less than all of it and we have to start today."

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