At least five more Democrats have publicly announced their intention to vote in favor of the contempt citation lobbied against Attorney General Eric Holder, Fox News reports.
Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) announced they will vote to hold Holder in contempt of Congress tomorrow.
“The attorney general has decided to withhold relevant documents,” Barrow said in a statement. ”The only way to get to the bottom of what happened is for the Department of Justice to turn over the remaining documents.”
The announcements come after a busy and heated day in the nation’s capital.
Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) testified before the House Rules Committee today. Issa said there is no evidence nor is he any longer “strongly suspicious” that the Attorney General knew about the botched gun-walking in Operation Fast and Furious.
“During the inception and the participation through the death of Brian Terry, we have no evidence nor do we currently have strong suspicion” that Holder knew of the tactics, Issa said.
At a news conference earlier this afternoon, other Democratic lawmakers fired back at the Republicans, accusing them of abusing the contempt of Congress power and politicizing the congressional investigation in to Operation Fast and Furious.
“Instead of going after the scalps of politicians and trying to play political gamesmanship we should be going after reforms,” Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said. “Reforms that would put real teeth — real penalties — behind straw-purchasing.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced today the vote will proceed as scheduled after a last-ditch effort to find a compromise failed. Yesterday evening Justice Department officials, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Boehner’s aides, and Issa met in an attempt to reach a settlement. The talks fell through.
Democrats at today’s press conference urged the House Speaker to address the looming contempt citation.
“I am drafting legislation that will be introduced … that will call upon the speaker to do as House Speaker Newt Gingrich did in 1998 when a citation came out of the Oversight Committee for Attorney General Janet Reno,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx.) ”Speaker Gingrich at that time did not allow that contempt citation to come to the floor of the the house. I believe our speaker can take a stand now.”
In 1998 the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee cited then-Attorney General Reno with contempt because she failed to turn over documents pertaining to the then-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. But the vote never reached the floor and the relevant documents were eventually disclosed.
Lead by Issa, the Oversight Committee voted last week 23-17 along party lines to advance the contempt resolution against Holder, despite President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over a number of internal deliberative documents.
The full House will vote on the charges tomorrow. If the vote passes, Holder would be the first sitting cabinet member in history to have been found in contempt of Congress.