Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) may have been in the most awkward position of any of the 17 Democrats who crossed party lines to vote to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress today. She wasn’t just voting against the attorney general. She was voting against her husband’s boss.
Hochul is married to Buffalo U.S. Attorney William Hochul, a long-serving federal prosecutor. Bill Hochul was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009 with support from New York’s senior Democratic senator, Charles Schumer.
Kathy Hochul improbably won her seat in a heavily Republican district in a special election in 2011 in which she blasted Republicans for their attempts to change the Medicare program. Her victory was hailed by national Democrats as evidence of the potency of their opposition to a budget plan put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would have turned Medicare into a program in which subsidies went directly to insurers, not beneficiaries.
Bill Hochul is no stranger to partisan politics. After he prosecuted the high-profile Lackawanna Six terrorism support case, he unsuccessfully applied to an anti-terrorism position at the Justice Department in 2006. A 2008 joint report of the Justice Department Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility indicated his nomination was “inappropriately blocked” by Justice official Monica Goodling, who was at the heart of a scandal in the George W. Bush administration over politicized hirings at DOJ.
Although the report didn’t name Hochul, sources told the Buffalo News that he was the “experienced terrorism prosecutor” described in the report as having had his promotion blocked by Goodling because his wife was a Democrat.
On the other side of the aisle, two Republicans voted against finding the Attorney General in criminal contempt of Congress.
Republican Reps. Scott Rigell (Va.) and Steven LaTourette (Ohio) were the only two Republicans in the House to vote against the resolution.
LaTourette, a former Ohio county prosecutor, did not believe the Attorney General’s actions amounted to a criminal violation, a spokeswoman for the lawmaker told Main Justice.
“He empathizes with the family of the [slain] Border Patrol agent and he understands the difficulty they have had in the committee getting documents,” Deborah Setliff, a spokeswoman for LaTourette, said. ”He just didn’t think it rose to criminal contempt.”
Setliff noted, however, that LaTourette did vote for the civil contempt charges, which authorize the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to retain counsel in an effort to compel the attorney general to hand over documents under subpoena.
Rigell, who represents Virginia Beach and parts of Norfolk and Hampton, reiterated in a statement that he wants Holder to resign. However, he said: “In the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, there is built-in tension among the three branches of our federal government. This tension was reflected in two votes that came to the House floor this afternoon. I believe in progressive discipline. Accordingly, and after a careful review of the facts, I voted against a bill to hold the Attorney General in criminal contempt of Congress.”
Like LaTourette, Rigell voted for the measure authorizing the Oversight panel to pursue a civil lawsuit to compel Holder to hand over the documents.
LaTourette’s 14th District of Ohio is ranked as “solid Republican” by the Cook Political Report, which catalogs lawmaker’s voting history. William O’Neill, his Democratic opponent, won 31 percent of the vote. But the 2008 presidential election shows a district divided in the swing state of Ohio. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district over President Barack Obama by a margin of .2 percent. McCain won 49.4 percent of the vote while Obama won 49.2 percent.
Rigell’s 2nd District of Virginia is also “Solid Republican.” It historically “leans Republican,” according the Cook Political Report. In 2008, Obama won 51 percent of the district’s votes, while McCain won 49 percent.
In addition Democratic Reps. Ron Kind (Wis.), Larry Kissel (N.C.), Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Nick Rahal (W.Va.), Bill Owens (N.Y.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Mike Ross (Ark.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Mark Critz (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), and Tim Walz (Minn.) voted in favor of finding Holder in contempt of Congress.
Congressional Democrats may have faced pressure from divided constituencies to vote in favor of the contempt citation, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) The National Rifle Association announced yesterday its plan to closely watch the contempt vote outcome for “future candidate evaluations.” Schiff said some Democrats may have felt pressure to vote in favor of the citation after the powerful lobby’s announcement.
Elizabeth Murphy contributed to this report.