Pressure on House Dems as NRA to score Holder contempt vote
posted at 8:41 am on June 27, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
Allahpundit briefly mentioned this last night, but it’s worth a closer look — as it may be a bellwether of bad news to the Obama White House. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), who faces a tough challenge in November from Republican Mia Love, has announced that he will vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt tomorrow, assuming that the Obama administration can’t cut a deal before the vote in the morning. He’s the first Democrat to break ranks, but he may not be the last:
Rep. Jim Matheson will vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding documents pertaining to a failed Justice Department sting that let guns get into the hands of drug runners.
Matheson, D-Utah, announced his position Tuesday, joining House Republicans, such as Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, who have railed against Holder’s reaction to the congressional probe into the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” operation. One of the lost guns was later used in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“It just compounds the tragedy when both sides play politics instead of releasing the facts. The Terry family, the public and Congress deserve answers,” Matheson said. “Sadly, it seems that it will take holding the attorney general in contempt to communicate that evasiveness is unacceptable.”
This tends to undercut the argument that the contempt vote is nothing more than a partisan electoral fight. Democrats, as the Salt Lake City Tribune notes, have claimed that Holder has been cooperative, releasing more than 7,000 pages of documentation. Unfortunately for Democrats, the House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed more than 130,000 pages of documents, which means that the DoJ has blocked more than 94% of the documents under subpoena. Their last-ditch offer to avoid contempt was even more ridiculous, as John Hinderaker explains:
The Obama administration has asserted a frivolous claim of executive privilege with respect to an unknown number of DOJ documents. (The number is unknown because the administration refuses to provide a standard privilege log.) Now, Eric Holder wants to offer the House a “representative sample” of less than 30 pages of the wrongfully withheld documents, in exchange for which the House is asked to abandon the Fast and Furious investigation altogether! This is absurd, even by Holder standards. We don’t know how many documents the administration is wrongfully withholding, but let’s assume they comprise only 2,000 pages (an extraordinarily small number). So the administration wants to select 30 harmless pages out of the 2,000, and thereby assure the House that the 1,970 they didn’t select are also insignificant! Somehow, nearly every day during the Age of Obama, I find myself asking: how dumb do they think we are?
The question isn’t how dumb they think Republicans are, but how much longer they can convince House Democrats in tough races this November to keep peddling that nonsense. Time already ran out for Obama and Holder in Utah’s 4th CD, and the NRA will make that clock tick even louder by scoring this as a vote on gun rights:
Now that the politically potent National Rifle Association is keeping score, some Democrats are expected to join House Republicans in supporting the contempt of Congress vote against Holder.
One of those Democrats, Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, said, “Sadly, it seems that it will take holding the attorney general in contempt to communicate that evasiveness is unacceptable. It is a vote I will support.”
The gun owners association injected itself last week into the stalemate over Justice Department documents demanded by the House Oversight Committee. The NRA said it supports the contempt resolution and will keep a record of how members vote.
An NRA letter to House members contended that the Obama administration “actively sought information” from Operation Fast and Furious to support its program to require dealers to report multiple rifle sales.
The program, which began last August, imposed the requirement for sales of specifically identified long guns in four border states: Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. A federal judge upheld the requirement.
Republicans don’t need Democratic votes to pass a resolution of contempt, but getting Democratic support will improve the politics of the effort immeasurably. That will rip the fig leaf from the White House and Department of Justice and focus the attention on the 99% opacity coming from Obama and Holder on Operation Fast and Furious.