The House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress Thursday for failing to provide documents relating to the Fast and Furious gunwalking program.
The first vote, 255-67, charged Holder with criminal contempt of Congress but is likely not to go anywhere as the Justice Department, which Holder heads, is the department responsible for opening a criminal investigation.
The second, the civil contempt charge, could move to federal court where it could take years to litigate. Though the action puts more pressure on the administration to abide by the subpoenas and provide requested documents.
The Democratic Party was split on the action. Seventeen voted with the Republicans to hold Holder in contempt, while others, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, walked off the floor to protest the vote, which they called “appalling.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi voted “no” on the contempt vote she said is “predicated on a false premise,” noting that this is the first contempt vote of a cabinet member is the first in American history.
Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement, calling the vote against him “a regrettable culmination of what became a misguided – and politically motivated – investigation during an election year. By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.”
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said gunwalking dated back to President George W. Bush’s administration and was stopped by Holder. “Yet, Republicans pushed for political theater rather than legitimate Congressional oversight,” he said.
“Unfortunately, a politically-motivated agenda prevailed and instead of engaging with the President in efforts to create jobs and grow the economy, today we saw the House of Representatives perform a transparently political stunt,” Pfeiffer said in a statement.