House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa clearly wasn’t bluffing when he circulated a draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder early last month. CBS News reports that Issa has scheduled a committee vote on the contempt charges for June 20:
On Monday morning, Issa formally announced the committee vote on contempt, set for Wednesday, June 20. House Speaker John Boehner also released a statement supporting the move, saying “the Justice Department is out of excuses.”
“Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry,” Boehner added. “Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the attorney general in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”
There would apparently be bipartisan support for the motion if it managed to get past the Oversight Committee: Issa told BuzzFeed earlier today that he believes 31 Democrats would support the motion in a floor vote, which is notably the same number of Democrats who signed a letter to President Obama last summer urging him to assist the investigation. Only one of the letter’s Democratic signatories, Rep. Jim Cooper, is actually on the Oversight Committee. Still, the motion is expected to pass.
Issa also told BuzzFeed that he’s given up hope the vote will pressure Holder into turning over the requested documents, and he’s now shifting the burden to President Obama:
Issa said under normal circumstances he’d expect the vote to pressure Holder to turn over the documents, but that now he’s hoping the president intercedes on Congress’ behalf.
“After Thursday’s hearing with the attorney general, no, I don’t expect it, but I would hope that the president would second-guess the man that he says he has full faith and confidence in, and tell him that it’s time to deliver reasonable documents,” Issa said.
The vote will certainly increase the pressure on both the attorney general and the White House, if only because it will incite more media scrutiny and negative press. Contempt votes are extremely rare, and only four officials – EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford, Attorney General Janet Reno, White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff John Bolton — have been found in contempt of Congress since 1983.