Nearly 100 members, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, joined the walkout that was organized by the Congressional Black Caucus during their Wednesday meting.
(RELATED: Pictures from the Walkout)
"This is about non-participation in contrivance and connivance," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, head of the CBC.
The members touted the walkout as their taking a moral high ground, by not participating in a vote they characterized as an abuse of power. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who walked out arm-in-arm with Pelosi, called for a moment of silence for the House, the country and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who's death prompted the Fast and Furious investigation.
Pelosi said earlier Thursday that she would remain on the floor to vote. But she didn't cast her vote, and instead joined her colleagues outside. All in all, 109 Democrats didn't vote on the measure, and according to CBC spokeswoman Stephanie Young, more than 100 members walked out.
Pelosi told Cleaver shortly before the vote that she would join the walkout, according to Cleaver, who said he was heartened to see Pelosi and others join. Earlier in the day, Cleaver said that if leaders chose to remain inside "it should not be interpreted as resistance" because "the captains never abandon the ship."
Hoyer led the assembled Democrats in a chant of "Shame on you!" aimed at Republicans.
"This is not about race. It is not about caucus. It is, however, about confrontation over cooperation," Hoyer said. "It is a pattern that this Republican leadership has followed since they were first sworn into power last year."
Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., later said opposition to the Holder contempt vote didn't have to do with the fact Holder is black, but it did concern him because of Holder's oversight of voter suppression.
"I don't think it's any secret that Republicans have supported the suppression of these votes, which have been in minority communities," he said. "We were outraged that once we got the attention of the Justice Department, it was when [Republicans] took him away from us to keep him on the Hill."
Photo: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, walks with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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