Having failed to reach a deal Wednesday, the House voted 255-67 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over his withholding of documents related to the "Fast and Furious" gun running scandal, Thursday, CSPAN reported. Democrats long argued the vote was a case of "political theater," and in protest several of them walked out of the Chamber. Holder greeted the contempt vote unhappily in a statement that reads in part:
This divisive action does not help us fix the problems that led to this operation or previous ones and it does nothing to make any of our law enforcement agents safer. It’s an election-year tactic intended to distract attention — and, as a result — has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority at the Department of Justice: Protecting the American people
As we explained in more depth this morning, Holder's the first attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt. Committee chair Darrell Issa has alleged that "Operation Fast and Furious" allowed guns to be trafficked to Mexican cartels, after which they were used to kill American border agent Brian Terry, all so the government could advance the case for gun control. There are some growing concerns with this theory, but the contempt vote is more concerned with Holder's use of executive privilege to withhold documents from Congress related to it. Therein lies the contempt.
After the vote made it through committee, the Justice Dept. and House leader talked about preventing a vote but Wednesday morning, they failed to reach an agreement, so here we are. Because the case is now referred to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who works for Holder, it's not exactly surefire that anything concrete will come of it. Nevertheless, it's not a happy day for Holder.