Attorney General Eric Holder (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House has approved a precedent-setting resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress. It was the first time a sitting Cabinet member has been held in contempt.
A number of Democrats boycotted Thursday's vote.
Republicans pushed through the resolution because Holder did not turn over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wants Justice Department records from a 10-month period after February 2011. That month, the department initially denied guns were allowed to be purchased in Arizona and be taken to Mexico. In early December that year, the department acknowledged the assertion was wrong.
A separate vote will be held to hold the attorney general in civil contempt.
The White House Communications Director issued a statement on the Contempt Vote:
At the beginning of this year, Republicans announced one of their top priorities was to investigate the Administration and to ensure that President Obama was a one-term President. Despite the major economic challenges facing the country, they talked openly about devoting taxpayer-funded, Congressional oversight resources to political purposes.
The problem of gunwalking was a field-driven tactic that dated back to the George W. Bush Administration, and it was this Administration's Attorney General who ended it. Attorney General Holder has said repeatedly that fighting criminal activity along the Southwest Border - including the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexico has been is a top priority of the Department. Eric Holder has been an excellent Attorney General and just yesterday the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee acknowledged that he had no evidence - or even the suspicion - that the Attorney General knew of the misguided tactics used in this operation.
Yet, Republicans pushed for political theater rather than legitimate Congressional oversight. Over the past fourteen months, the Justice Department accommodated Congressional investigators, producing 7,600 pages of documents, and testifying at eleven Congressional hearings. In an act of good faith, this week the Administration made an additional offer which would have resulted in the Committee getting unprecedented access to documents dispelling any notion of an intent to mislead. But unfortunately, a politically-motivated agenda prevailed and instead of engaging with the President in efforts to create jobs and grow the economy, today we saw the House of Representatives perform a transparently political stunt.