Efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress are part of a national “scheme” involving the “right-wing over-the-edge gang” within the House Republican Conference to suppress voter participation this fall, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., charged on Thursday.
“Contempt of Congress? Contempt of Congress?” repeated Pelosi, incredulously, while speaking to reporters.
Pelosi lashed out that a “shameful display” of contrived election-year maneuvering is evident in a House committee’s party-line vote on Wednesday to cite Holder in contempt for withholding documents related to a botched gun-trafficking investigation—and next week’s scheduled floor vote on the issue.
Pelosi then launched into an attack reminiscent of a claim by then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1998 when she defended her husband’s besieged presidency by calling GOP investigations into it a “vast right-wing conspiracy."
“It is no accident; it is no coincidence that the attorney general of the United States is the person responsible for making sure that voter suppression does not happen in our country,” and that civil liberties are upheld, Pelosi said.
She also said that congressional Republicans are desperately trying to divert attention from the highway and student-loan bills that are languishing as the funding deadlines quickly approach.
“Instead,” she said, “let us tie the hands of the person who is assigned to ensure that the American people who have a right to vote are able to vote and their vote is counted."
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, countered that there is Republican movement on the transportation bill, and that the public “deserves the truth of what happened in [Operation] Fast and Furious. This is about getting the truth to the American people and to the Terry family,” Boehner said, referring to border agent Brian Terry. Two of the guns lost in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' weapons sting-operation-gone-bad were recovered at the scene of Terry's killing in December 2010.
Boehner said that the requested documents were “reasonable” and unrelated to the ongoing criminal investigation.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said all documents relevant to the Fast and Furious operation have been provided to congressional investigators; those withheld by the president's assertion of executive privilege are "after the fact, internal documents" related to White House deliberations over how best to respond to the investigation.
There has been "absolutely" no cover-up on the Obama administration's behalf, Carney added. "Our level of cooperation has been extensive."
Pelosi insisted: “This is part of the scheme that the right-wing, over-the-edge—and I don’t think all Republicans ascribe to this—but the over-the-edge-gang which dominates the House of Representatives has said this is the best way to spend our time.”
And Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wondered later whether Boehner would really follow through with the full House vote on contempt.
“I believe the American people believe in fairness,” Cummings said, adding that if they begin to feel something “far right” about this action, the ramifications will not be “very helpful” to Republicans.