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Holder held in contempt; Grijalva joins walkout, Barber splits votes

Barber votes 'no' on criminal contempt, 'yes' on civil

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Republican members of the U.S. House, joined by a few Democrats, voted 255-67 on Thursday to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress in the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the botched “gun-walking” operation by federal agents in Arizona. 

Holder was held in criminal contempt in that vote.

By a 258-95 vote, held later Thursday, the House also held Holder in civil contempt.

Dozens Democrats walked out during the first vote, including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva. His fellow Arizona Democratic Reps. Ron Barber and Ed Pastor voted against the resolution. All five state Republican House members voted for contempt.

The criminal contempt vote "does nothing to further the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious," Barber said in a news release. Barber voted to hold Holder in civil contempt, while Grijalva voted against that resolution.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and members of the Congressional Black Caucus joined the walkout, while seventeen members of the party joined the majority in the criminal vote. Two GOP representatives voted against charging Holder with criminal contempt, defying an announcement by the National Rifle Association that the gun-rights group would score the vote when rating congressmen.

The vote marks the first time in history that the chief of the Justice Department has been held in contempt of Congress.

The criminal charge will be referred to Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, an Obama appointee who is unlikely to pursue action in the case.

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The civil charge sets the stage for a suit by the House Oversight Committee, chaired by California Republican Darrell Issa, asking a court to order the turnover of Justice Department documents related to the case.

Barber called that move "warranted."

"The administration should share the requested documents with Congress and action in federal court is a prudent way to remove this critical law enforcement debate from the realm of politics," he said.

The White House has asserted executive privilege over the documents, and refused to release them to the committee.

Democrats have called Issa's investigation a political witchhunt.

The Fast and Furious investigation came to light after weapons related to the gun-smuggling probe were found at the scene of the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in late 2010.

"Brian Terry and his family deserve better than a partisan fight based on election year politicking. They deserve answers to their questions about his death," Barber said, calling the congressional probe "a partisan undertaking, in which requests by minority members for witnesses and hearings were rejected."

A spokesman for the Terry family said they take no pleasure in the vote.

"Such a vote should not have been necessary. The Justice Department should have released the documents related to Fast and Furious months ago," said Terry's cousin, Robert Heyer.

"Eric Holder’s refusal to do so and President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege have stood in the way of justice," said Heyer, head of the Brian Terry Foundation, which has allied itself with Issa's probe.

A House committee voted along party lines last Wednesday to send the contempt case to the entire House.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 5 »

5
1519 comments
Jul 2, 2012, 3:43 pm
-0 +0

@dbaron47

Do you really think the Tucson electorate is capable of doing the right thing by holding a politician accountable? Have you seen your City Council? Your Sheriff? The other Congressman? Barber and the Special election? Giffords before him? Braindead Bob three times? Three out of five of your County Board of Supervisors?

Of course Barber shouldn’t be in that spot. That’s abundantly clear to any reasonable thinking person. However, you saying that Barber’s days are numbered makes you look as out of touch with Tucson voters as Tucson voters are with reality. The electorate around here is beyond hopeless, and that’s why this community will never even come close to reaching it’s great potential.

This is horribly sad, and of course it shouldn’t be this way, but that’s reality. :(

4
2 comments
Jul 2, 2012, 3:02 pm
-1 +0

As far as Ron Barber goes, his voting record speaks volumes….volumes of reasons why his days are limited.

http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2012/07/ron-barber-has-already-proven-unworthy.html

3
1519 comments
Jun 29, 2012, 8:42 am
-0 +0

I don’t understand the Barber vote. Well, check that, I DO understand it. He was doing as he was told. As I stated previously, Muffy Giffords in Burl Ives’ body. However, he did do the right thing in that he stayed to vote. Even if he did vote incorrectly, at least he didn’t disrespect us all by walking out.

I know the Tucson electorate is largely brain-dead, but a man can still dream…and I dream that Grijalva’s district will remember this, amongst a lot of other things, this November.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Barber's statement on Holder contempt votes

First of all, it should never be the policy of the U.S. government to allow firearms to be smuggled into Mexico. A program such as Operation Fast and Furious should never have been approved and must never happen again. There clearly was inadequate oversight that allowed American weapons to fall into the hands of violent Mexican criminals and drug cartel members.

Now we must focus on finding solutions to the problems facing communities on the border. That means taking firm and quick action against the cartels and stopping the flow of drugs and violence into our country.

It also means having a real discussion, with specifics, about how to stop cartel members from coming to my home state of Arizona to buy guns and then turning those guns on our courageous law enforcement and Border Patrol personnel. These brave men and women deserve sound policy decisions.

We must give first priority to protecting the lives of men such as Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who routinely make enormous sacrifices for our country. Agent Terry made the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing we can do going forward can bring him back. But he and his family deserve to know what happened and who is responsible.

To have this discussion, and to find these solutions, we must put partisanship aside and work together. Today's vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt is in direct opposition to that goal and does nothing to further the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.

Today's vote to allow Congress to go to court to resolve this issue is warranted. The administration should share the requested documents with Congress and action in federal court is a prudent way to remove this critical law enforcement debate from the realm of politics.

Brian Terry and his family deserve better than a partisan fight based on election year politicking. They deserve answers to their questions about his death.

Just as I am disturbed by the application of executive privilege to withhold documents from Congress, I am equally disturbed that the 16-month investigation conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform appeared to be a partisan undertaking, in which requests by minority members for witnesses and hearings were rejected. I am dedicated to working across party lines for solutions, not deepening partisan divides.

Congress must get to the bottom of what happened with Operation Fast and Furious.

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