The House has added special provisions for its rules in the next Congress to allow Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to continue his committee’s federal lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder as part of its ongoing probe of Fast and Furious.
The proposed rules for the 113th Congress, which convenes Jan. 3, extend authorization for the civil suit that seeks to compel Holder to hand over internal documents related to the department’s response to the congressional investigation of the botched gun-tracing operation. The rules would also allow continued enforcement of subpoenas filed by the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee, chaired by Issa.
Without the extension of lawsuit and subpoenas, the Justice Department could have argued in court that the subpoenas underpinning the lawsuit had expired, noted the Washington Times. However, in late November, both parties told the federal judge in Washington, D.C., that they were working towards a settlement resolution. They will be meeting before the judge next month to discuss the progress.
President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over the withheld documents this summer, sparking controversy about whether the president had the right to do so for documents not directly related to White House deliberations. The House then voted to find Holder in contempt of Congress in a historic vote in June. The showdown was one of the major Justice Department stories of the year.
The Justice Department refused to enforce the contempt charge against Holder, prompting the House committee to file a civil suit. Holder has called the lawsuit and ongoing probe political gamesmanship.
On Friday, Issa praised the proposed provisions.
“These provisions in the 113th Congress rules package ensure that the civil suit authorized by the House of Representatives with the support of 21 Democratic representatives will move forward,” Issa said in a statement. “The Justice Department has still not met its legal obligations to turn over documents showing why it waited ten months to formally retract false denials of reckless tactics in Operation Fast and Furious and why it failed to appropriately respond to whistleblower allegations. The new Congress will be steadfast in its commitment to getting the full truth about this reckless gun-walking effort that has been linked to murders on both sides of our border with Mexico.”
Fast and Furious was a gun-tracing operation headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It aimed to track some 2,000 guns as they were smuggled over the border by straw buyers. Hundreds of guns went missing, however, and two were later found at the scene of a deadly shootout in Arizona in December 2010. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in the gunfire.
The Justice Department Inspector General released a report in September detailing the systemic problems with the operation, finding fault with a number of top ATF and DOJ officials.