By B.J. Reyes
Although both of Hawaii’s Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives derided Thursday’s vote to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress as a political stunt, they split on how to demonstrate their objection to the process.
Holder became the first sitting Cabinet member held in contempt of Congress. The rebuke was pushed by Republicans seeking more information on a bungled gun-tracking operation known as “Operation Fast and Furious.”
The vote was 255-67, with more than 100 Democrats boycotting.
“Today, House Republicans staged a contemptuously-partisan vote on holding the Attorney General in contempt of Congress. This shameful vote was a blatant political ploy by Washington Republicans who say their number one goal for 2012 is to defeat President Obama, and I voted against it. The American people deserve better. Congress should be sharply focused on the everyday challenges facing Hawaii’s families, not wasting time and energy on this political shibai.”
Hanabusa called the House action “unfortunate,” adding:
“The leadership of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has repeatedly turned away efforts to reach a reasonable accommodation on the issue and the investigation identified no evidence that the Attorney General or senior Department officials were aware of ‘gunwalking’ in Fast and Furious. By ignoring the facts and rebuffing the Justice Department’s efforts to reasonably provide the committee with the information it needs to reach a fair decision, the committee has forced the department to devote resources to this blatantly political stunt, instead of the department’s real mission of protecting American lives.”
Republicans cited Holder’s refusal to hand over — without any preconditions — documents that could explain why the Obama administration initially denied that a risky “gun-walking” investigative tactic was used in Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed hundreds of guns to be smuggled from Arizona to Mexico.
The vote on a criminal contempt resolution sent the matter to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who is under Holder.
A separate vote on civil contempt passed 258-95. It will allow the House to go to court in an effort to force Holder to turn over the documents.
In past cases, courts have been reluctant to settle disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.