Dozens of Dems may join GOP on contempt

June 27, 2012 at 7:32 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- At least four Democrats in tough re-election fights said they will join Republicans in voting to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Reform and Government Oversight Committee, told Fox News Channel Wednesday he believes about 30 Democrats will break ranks, joining John Barrow of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah. Politico reported later in the day Nick Rahall of West Virginia and Collin Peterson of Minnesota would vote with Republicans Thursday, Politico said..

"Sadly, it seems that it will take holding the attorney general in contempt to communicate that evasiveness is unacceptable," Matheson said in a statement.

Barrow and Matheson are from conservative states, with Matheson the only Democrat in the Utah congressional delegation.

Democrats voting to hold the attorney general in contempt might be responding to pressure from the National Rifle Association, Politico said. The NRA announced it supports the contempt citation and will score members' votes -- an electoral challenge for Democrats who have in the past been endorsed by the NRA, Politico said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters on Capitol Hill "a couple dozen" Democrats could vote with Republicans under pressure from the NRA.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also suggested Democrats who vote for contempt are under pressure from the NRA.

The NRA charges that Fast and Furious, a botched attempt to track guns suspected of being illegally purchased in the United States to buyers in Mexico, was a ploy to build support for new gun regulations.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Obama administration has had "ample opportunity" to respond to requests for documents on the Fast and Furious "gun-walking" operation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, CNN reported. He said the House will vote Thursday to hold Holder in contempt.

The White House says the withheld documents are "deliberative" and covered by executive privilege. Attempts to negotiate a settlement Tuesday were fruitless.

"This was a good faith effort to try to reach an accommodation while still protecting the institutional prerogatives of the executive branch, often championed by these same Republicans criticizing us right now," Eric Schultz, an administration spokesman, told CNN. "Unfortunately, Republicans have opted for political theater rather than conduct legitimate congressional oversight."

Issa testified Wednesday before the House Rules Committee, saying his committee no longer suspects Holder knew that guns "walked" during Fast and Furious, the liberal Talking Points Memo blog reported.

"During the inception and the participation through the death of [border agent] Brian Terry, we have no evidence nor do we currently have strong suspicion" that Holder knew of the tactics, Issa said.

"We have just the opposite, have a number of people, including [assistant U.S. Attorney General] Lanny Breuer, who should have known who's responsibility was to know, that as part of our ongoing responsibility to figure out who was responsible," he said.

Issa said there was no evidence the White House had knowledge of gunwalking tactics, prompting Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. -- ranking member of the Oversight Committee- to interject, "We are now about to find in contempt the attorney general of the United States of America after you just heard that."

"It's not for what the attorney general knew about Fast and Furious," Issa said, "it's about the attorney general's refusal to provide the documents."

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus plan to leave the House floor during the vote, Politico reported, citing a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

"We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people," the letter said.

"We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation's most significant priority -- creating jobs," the letter said, urging members to "work as colleagues rather than political enemies."

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