On nearly any other day, that would have been the headline. And who knows? Years from now, history may record that today’s most important event was the House of Representatives’ voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt by a stunning 255-67 vote. Among those voting “Yea” were 17 Democrats, so the contempt citation was bipartisan to a meaningful degree.
The contempt resolution was, in my view, entirely justified. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating Fast and Furious, which was–best case, as argued by Holder and the administration–an incredibly stupid program that resulted in hundreds of people being killed. No one questions the propriety of the House committee’s investigation; not on any rational ground, anyway. Pursuant to that investigation, the committee has subpoenaed certain documents from the Department of Justice. The subpoena is very narrow, and the committee is trying to enforce it with regard to only a tiny number of highly relevant documents. Nevertheless, the Obama administration, which evidently has much to hide, has told the House committee that it will ignore the subpoena. The administration has justified this lawlessness with a legally frivolous claim of executive privilege, as I wrote here. So the administration has left the House with no proper course but to vote a contempt resolution, as 17 Democrats recognized, to their credit.
Sadly, dozens of Democratic representatives, including Nancy Pelosi and numerous members of the Congressional Black Caucus, walked out of the House chamber to protest the contempt vote. By doing so, they politicized what is really a rather straightforward legal issue. It is sad, but not at all surprising, to see the Democratic Party behaving in this manner.
What happens next? The House will vote to go to court to enforce its subpoena. The resulting court proceedings will last until well beyond November’s election, which is all the Obama administration is hoping for at this point. Obstruct, delay, obfuscate and try to change the subject: that is what Democrats in Washington have been reduced to.