A House panel voted Wednesday to place Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to comply with a subpoena, defying an assertion of executive privilege from President Obama.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Republican Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.), approved a resolution along party lines to place Holder in contempt after battling him for months over access to internal agency documents about the gun-tracking operation Fast and Furious.
All 23 Republicans on the committee voted for the contempt resolution, while all 17 Democrats voted against it. Every member of the panel was present for the vote.
There are still many off-ramps on the road towards Eric Holder being perp walked into federal prison for being found guilty of contempt of Congress.
Next week the full House will vote on the Oversight Committee’s contempt citation. If it passes, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia will convene a grand jury to decide on an indictment. If that is successful, then Holder would have to be found guilty by another jury. Only then would he be eligible to serve the one-year sentence for refusing to comply with Issa’s repeated requests for documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal.
The process is lengthy, and anyway is beside the point. The reason Issa and the Republicans are pushing the contempt process forward isn’t to see the U.S. Attorney General go to prison. It’s to apply the necessary pressure on a recalcitrant Obama administration to release information about one of the dumbest and most tragic federal misadventures in recent memory.
Hiding behind eleventh hour claims of executive privilege won’t make that task any easier. If Holder and President Barack Obama want to avoid letting Fast and Furious become this administration’s Iran Contra, Holder better personally deliver assurances to Issa that he’s ready to fully cooperate.
And if he can’t because there’s damning information about a DOJ-White House cover-up, get ready for a Watergate role reversal with Republicans in Congress making a Democratic president’s life miserable.