It was a 1-for-2 day for the Obama administration as the House found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress by a vote of 255-67.
Seventeen Democrats crossed over to vote for the resolution, while Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) voted “present.” Two Republicans voted “no” — Reps. Steve LaTourette (Ohio) and Scott Rigell (Va.).
Democrats voting for the resolution were Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), John Barrow (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Mark Critz (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Kathy Hochul (N.Y.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Bill Owens (N.Y.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Mike Ross (Ark.), and Tim Walz (Minn.).
And as promised, the Congressional Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and Progressive caucuses, along with other members of the Democratic Caucus, walked out on the vote.
But the real show was the face-off between House leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the contempt resolution “stunning,” lamenting that Holder was spending his energy — “psychic, intellectual, and time — dealing with this unprincipled effort” by Republicans.
She said that she was deliberating whether to stay and vote “no” or walk out with the CBC, adding she was “very moved” by their effort. “How else can we impress upon the American people without scaring them about what is happening here?”
“It’s Eric Holder one day,” Pelosi said. “You don’t know who it is the next.”
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said “the only recourse left for the House” was to move forward with the contempt resolution.
“Frankly, I hoped it would never come to this,” he said. “The House’s focus is on jobs and the economy. But no Justice Department is above the law.”
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the average amount of time for the House to consider previous contempt resolutions has been 87 days. The Oversight committee sent the resolution to the House just last week.
“I think this investigation has been extraordinarily superficial,” Hoyer said.
“I believe that the political motivations behind this resolution are clear and pose a clear and present danger to this nation,” he added.
Issa confronted members who said that the vote was about anything but the “very narrow contempt” resolution that focused on obtaining withheld documents in Operation Fast and Furious.
“We’ve seen no evidence that the White House had anything to do with gun-walking operations,” Cummings said, wryly noting that Republicans were “finally going to get the prize they have been seeking for over a year.”
Issa, who propped a large photo of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry behind his podium toward the end of the debate, said the resolution wasn’t about a witch hunt, but getting to the bottom of Fast and Furious — “no ifs, no ands, no buts.”
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who represents the district in which the Terry family lives, said he “didn’t roll off the cabbage wagon yesterday” and moved to refer the contempt resolution back to the Oversight panel for additional public hearings “so that this investigation can focus on the real issues at hand.”
“My constituent Brian Terry wants the truth from the grave,” Dingell said.
In response, Issa read from a Terry family statement that said Dingell doesn’t represent them in this case, and has never spoken to the family even after their unanswered attempt to get help from Dingell’s staff.
“My office is setting up a meeting with the Terry family as soon as I get back to Michigan,” Dingell said.
The House defeated Dingell’s motion to refer 172-251.
As the lower chamber then moved to the contempt resolution itself, a stream of Democrats, including Pelosi and Hoyer, filed down the center aisle and out the door.
“In their pursuit of power they’ve lost all sense of principle,” Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) said of Republicans, adding that the vote could find Congress with its historically low approval ratings “held in even more contempt than it is now.”
“This should be labeled ‘fast and foolish’ or maybe ‘fast and fake,’” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).
“This isn’t about politics; it’s about the constitution,” said Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
Holder gave a statement quickly after the vote, chiding some Republicans for concocting “truly absurd — truly absurd — conspiracy theories.”
“Today’s vote may make for good political theater,” he said, but was a “crass effort and grave disservice to the American people.”
“As a result of the action taken today by the House, an unnecessary court conflict will ensue,” Holder said. “My efforts to resolve this matter short of such a battle were rebuffed by Congressman Issa and his supporters. It’s clear that they were not interested in bringing an end to this dispute or obtaining the information they claimed to seek. Ultimately, their goal was the vote that – with the help of special interests – they now have engineered.”