House moving forward with afternoon contempt vote against Holder; Update: Holder found in contempt; 17 Dems vote yes, rest walk out without voting
The Obama administration and House Republicans refused to find a middle ground in a dispute over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation, and the GOP plunged ahead with plans for precedent-setting votes Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in civil and criminal contempt of Congress.
The votes are expected hours after the Supreme Court will capture the nation’s attention with its ruling on the legality of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Even without that diversion, the contempt issue throws both parties temporarily off-track in their efforts to focus on the economy in an election year.
There’s little question that Republicans will get the votes they need, not only from their own majority but from Democrats aligned with the National Rifle Association — which has said it’s keeping score. The NRA has said it believes the administration was using the flawed Operation Fast and Furious to make the case for more gun control.
The criminal contempt resolution would send the matter to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who is under Holder. The civil contempt resolution would allow the House to go to court in an effort to force Holder to turn over documents the Oversight committee wants. In past cases, courts have been reluctant to settle disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government.
The House is unlikely to get the documents anytime soon, because President Barack Obama has invoked a broad form of executive privilege, which protects from disclosure internal documents in executive branch agencies.
Five Dems have indicated they’ll vote to make Holder the first Attorney General (or sitting Cabinet member for that matter) in US history to be found in contempt of Congress, and that number could climb as high as a dozen or more. However, I wonder if today’s Supreme Court ruling might scale back the number of Dems voting to charge Holder with contempt due to a temporary false sense of security. Or, could it have the reverse effect by prompting swing district Dems who are aware how unpopular Obamacare is with the public to look for a way to demonstrate to their constituents they’re not in lock-step with Obama? Once again, we’ll see. Holder might already know the answer to that, having chatted with many of them at last night’s barbecue.
I’ll post updates when the House begins voting, which as of right now is scheduled for 5 p.m. approximately 3:45 p.m. eastern.
It’s one of those days.
Update: The CBC says they’ll stage a walk out during the contempt vote.
2:32 p.m. eastern: House begins the floor debate process preceding the contempt vote. It’s on C-Span or you can watch live here.
As Michigan Rep. John Dingell is referring to the Terry family in caring fashion as “my constituents,” a reminder.
4:10 p.m.: A procedural vote is taking place. The vote on the contempt citation will begin after that.
4:30 p.m.: Voting begins, and it looks like many Democrats are walking out (without voting… so far anyway).
A couple minutes in, and so far 17 Dems have voted to find Holder in contempt of Congress (looks like two Republican “no” votes).
The vote has concluded. Here’s the C-Span count:
Yea: 255 (238 Repub, 17 Dem)
Nay: 67 (65 Dem, 2 Repub)
Not voting: 110 (108 Dem, 2 Repub). The 108 Dems not voting is obviously due to the walkout.
I’ll update later with a roll call.
The two Republicans who voted against were Reps. Scott Rigell of Virginia and Steven LaTourette of Ohio.
The House also passed a civil contempt of Congress resolution against Holder, allowing Issa to file a lawsuit against the Department of Justice.
Video of many Dems walking out as the voting started:
A list of all the Democrats voting to charge Holder with contempt is here.