One of the Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lashed out at next Wednesday’s consideration of a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, calling it “political programming for an election year.”
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) sharply criticized Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) Monday announcement, which comes after Holder testified before regular Justice Department oversight hearings of the House and Senate Judiciary panels.
“The contempt citation is not only wrong on the merits but, more seriously, wholly misses the point of the Fast and Furious tragedy, and gives every appearance of political programming for an election year,” Norton said. “The subpoena seeks documents that are either sealed by federal law, or are part of an ongoing criminal investigation, and otherwise seeks to facilitate an ongoing fishing expedition for whatever can be found, with election-year politics in mind.”
Norton said that she has supported the committee’s investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, but mused about whether House leadership “would put its credibility on the line” by bringing the citation to the floor over “partisan subpoenas.”
“The gun trafficking that led to the killing of the border patrol agent by Mexican cartel thugs goes without so much as a hearing. This same committee has spent a full year going after the Attorney General while steadfastly refusing to fill a hole in the federal law that allows the gun running and straw purchases that led to Fast and Furious,” Norton said. “The tragic death of the federal agent remains unaddressed because of virtual instructions from the gun lobby that the gun trafficking issue never see the light of day. The time is long past due for the committee to turn its attention to lessons learned and proceed to a remedy.”
Norton said the case served as a reason to mark up Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act of 2011, of which the D.C. delegate is a co-sponsor.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a carefully worded, brief statement after Issa’s announcement.
“It is unfortunate that the Committee scheduled a contempt vote against the Attorney General when federal law prohibits him from turning over many of the subpoenaed documents, but I am guardedly optimistic that a path forward exists that will serve the legitimate interests of the Committee in conducting rigorous oversight, protect the legitimate interests of the Department in its ongoing investigations and prosecutions, and avoid the needless politicization of this very serious issue,” Cummings said.