“There is no one person who is above the law,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who called on his colleagues to have the “guts” to vote in favor and send it to the floor for further debate. “This is not about Eric Holder. … Nobody wants to put a conclusion to this more than Chairman Issa.”
“I’m going resist the temptation to contrast Sen. Obama’s position on executive privilege with President Obama’s position on executive privilege,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). “…What in the world is he exerting executive privilege for? He’s either part of it or he’s not.”
“This is a sad day,” he added. “But it is a necessary day.”
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) called for Holder’s resignation. “He knows nothing, he says nothing, and he seeks for nothing,” Labrador said. “Never in my life have I met a man so unconcerned with the truth.”
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced a failed amendment that called on the committee to postpone action on contempt until an investigation is done into the gun-walking operation that occurred during the Bush administration, to which many of documents Holder has handed over have referred.
Cummings supported the amendment, saying that while others were trying to discern whether Holder has been hiding something, “I don’t think he’s hiding a damn thing.”
“I gotta say, Mr. Chairman, sitting with you in a meeting can be rough,” the ranking member said about the previous night’s meeting with Holder.
“This amendment smacks of ‘it’s Bush’s fault’,” said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), quipping that if the committee wants to go back to the Bush years the Obama administration would be more than willing to turn over everything in regard to that operation.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), calling it an “Olympic investigation,” wanted to include a paragraph at the end of the contempt report noting that the committee would report how much the investigation cost to the taxpayers, complaining that the panel was spending “an overwhelming amount of time on this one issue.” That also didn’t pass.
“Watergate cost a lot of money,” Issa said. “…Brian Terry’s family deserves every penny we have spent.”
A letter from Terry’s family was brought forth at the committee during the debate on the amendments, saying that “the documents sought should be produced and turned over to the committee” and stressing that Holder’s stonewalling “serves to compound this tragedy.”
Obama’s executive privilege twist reverberated beyond the Oversight Committee room.
“The Attorney General and now the President have refused to turn over documents to investigators and failed to hold anyone accountable for his department’s mishandling of Fast and Furious, which lead to the death of Brian Terry,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Today’s vote could have been avoided, but the Attorney General and President Obama’s insistence on stonewalling left no other option.”
One of the quickest in the upper chamber to respond, though, was Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who sent the first inquiry to the ATF on Operation Fast and Furious shortly after Agent Brian Terry’s December 2010 death.
“How can the President assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement?” Grassley said in a statement. “How can the President exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme?”