Does John Boehner Have The Balls To Have Eric Holder Arrested? Does The DCCC Have Any Balls At All?
Career criminal Darrell Issa was appointed chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform by John Boehner for one reason-- to somehow bag a high ranking Democrat doing something "wrong." He focused on Attorney General Eric Holder and found some kooky right-wing conspiracy theory about Obama seizing all their guns to run with. The Justice Department strategy was to roll up gun smuggling networks operating in the Southwest between the U.S. and Mexico by nabbing high level crime figures rather than low-level foot soldiers. This was always an implicit threat to the money behind the NRA and Larry Pratt's Gun Owners of America.
When Issa brought up his partisan, trumped-up contempt charges against Holder in his committee, the vote was strictly partisan. Every single Republican voted for contempt and every single Democrat voted against contempt, including the committee's one Blue Dog, who can often be counted on to support crazy Republican initiatives, Jim Cooper of Nashville. Yesterday the procedural vote to allow Issa to move forward passed 254-173, every Republican plus 15 Democrats-- John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA), Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK), Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA), Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY), Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog--IN), Kathy Hochul (New Dem-NY), Ron Kind (New Dem-WI), Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC), Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT), Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC), Bill Owens (New Dem-NY), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Nick Rahall (WV), Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR), and Tim Waltz (MN)-- voting AYE.
In the end, Issa's crazy resolution passed 255-67. Only two Republicans, Scott Rigell (VA) and Stev LaTourette (OH), voted against Issa's nonsense. 110 Democrats walked out, 65 voted NO and 17 voted with the Republicans for contempt. Cowardly Illinois reactionary Lipinski Jr voted "present." The Congressional Black Caucus, Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Progressive Caucus led the walk out. Keith Ellison (D-MN):
Today’s vote by the House of Representatives is just another example of the Republican leadership’s fondness for playing political games instead of governing. That’s why I am proud to join my fellow Democrats in an action to protest today’s contempt vote.
I agree that the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation deserved a methodical Congressional investigation-- this is our oversight responsibility. The family of Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry, who was shot with a gun that had been trafficked-- or ‘gun walked’-- into Mexico deserves a full explanation of what happened.
However, the investigation has ignored the fact that the Bush Administration started this program, which let weapons traffickers buy thousands of guns. The Obama Administration acted decisively to stop the program and Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the approach. He then called for an independent investigation of the botched program, testified before Congress on the matter seven times and provided more than 6,000 pages of documents.
Yet, once again the Republicans won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer and have turned this tragedy into a political football. Instead of the House Republicans taking action to invest in jobs they have used this investigation for political gain. It’s time to end the partisan witch hunt and to start working on the American people’s behalf.
The 17 Democrats who stayed around to vote with Issa were:
Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)
Leonard Bosell (Blue Dog-IA)
Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY)
Mark Critz (Dem Dem-PA)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Kathy Hochul (New Dem-NY)
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)
Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Nick Rahall (WV)
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)
Tim Walz (MN)
The ones in bold are all scheduled to receive between one and two million dollars this cycle from the DCCC for their reelection campaigns or in the form of attack ads against their GOP opponents. This week Larry Pratt, the deranged head of the right-wing fringe lobbying group, Gun Owners of America has been running around threatening congressmembers about the vote. And so was the slightly more mainstream NRA. They claim Holder is involved with a bunch of crazed right-wing conspiracies including murder and seizing their guns... all sorts of insanity for the GOP base. But what they've been demanding is that Blue Dogs and other right-wing Democrats give Boehner and Cantor the opportunity to call the contempt vote "bipartisan." The NRA says this is a do-or-die vote... you're either with us or against us. I find it amazing not that the right-wing Blue Dogs who were the first to buckle to the NRA/Gun Owners of America threats were Jim Matheon (UT), John Barrow (GA) and Mike McIntyre (NC) but that each of them is on the DCCC Frontline program and that the DCCC will waste between a million and two million dollars trying to save each of their necks. Barrow has virtually no chance of winning but that won't stop the DCCC from wasting money that could be used to defeat Republican villains like Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Buck McKeon.
As Public Campaign reported yesterday, the NRA PAC has already given nearly $300,000 to congressional candidates, 18% of it to Democrats. Which Democrats? Well 32 of 'em including the 5-- Peterson, Matheson, Barrow, Rahall, and McIntyre-- who already announced they're voting for contempt. Since the 2010 cycle this is how much the NRA has given the worst ConservaDems:
Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)- $12,400
Joe Baca (Blue Dog-CA)- $5,500
John Barrow (Blue Dog-CA)- $13,900
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)- $4,950
Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA)- $7,950
Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY)- $9,950
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)- $6,950
Kathy Hochul (New Dem/NRA endorsee)- $1,000
Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA)- $13,400
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)- $5,950
Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC)- $11,900
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)- $6,000
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)- $7,950
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)- $3,000
Nick Rahall (WV)- $7,950
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)- $10,000
Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC)- $13,400
Tim Walz (MN)- $8,950
If you give even one dollar to the DCCC, most of it will be spent to support right-wing fake Democrats like these galoots. If you want to support Democrats who support your values and principles give directly to those candidates-- like these candidates-- and never through untrustworthy and systemically corrupt organizations like the DCCC. So what happens next? The Washington Post got a Cornell law professor, Josh Chafetz, who's working on a book about congressional power and the separation of powers to elucidate some of the possibilities.
Under an 1857 statute, the House can refer the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution in federal court. But the department would almost certainly exercise its prosecutorial discretion and refuse to charge its own leader. Indeed, that happened in 2008, when the House held George W. Bush administration officials Harriet E. Miers and Joshua B. Bolten in contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas related to the 2006 firing of nine U.S. attorneys.
The most likely next step would be for the House to file suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that Holder is in contempt of Congress and an injunction ordering him to comply with the congressional subpoenas. That is how the House went after Miers and Bolten. But their case illustrates why it would be a mistake for lawmakers to follow the same course now.
For one thing, going to the courts sends the wrong message about Congress’s strength. It would be odd and enfeebling for the House to declare someone in contempt and then go, hat in hand, to a federal district judge and ask her to declare that person in contempt.
Perhaps that kind of public humiliation would be worth it if the House actually got what it wanted in court. But that will not happen, as the Miers and Bolten case shows. Although a trial court ruled in the House’s favor, the legal battle took years. The House did not get any information until after the expiration of the Congress in which the subpoenas had been issued, after the end of the Bush administration, and after the U.S. attorneys controversy had faded from public attention. And if the executive had needed to drag out court proceedings even longer, there is no doubt that it could have, further frustrating the role of Congress in overseeing the executive branch. If this is what winning in the courts looks like, the House should want no part of it.
...[The House] can send its sergeant-at-arms to arrest him and hold him until his contempt is purged. The House has arrested and held executive-branch officials twice in U.S. history, although the last time was nearly a century ago. And traditionally, courts will inquire into the House’s jurisdiction to arrest-- which undoubtedly exists here-- but not its reasons for doing so. This option is risky; it even raises the possibility of a standoff between the House sergeant-at-arms and the executive-branch police tasked with protecting Holder. But executive-branch contempt of court also raises the possibility of a standoff between judicial marshals and executive-branch police. Such risks are always attendant in high-stakes separation-of-powers controversies.
The House could also impeach Holder-- and there is a good argument to be made that impeachment, which must be tried in the Senate, is the way to go after a Senate-confirmed Cabinet officer. The Democratic Senate may refuse to convict Holder, but simply facing impeachment proceedings is quite punishing-- just ask Bill Clinton.
Or consider the House’s power of the purse. It could threaten to cut funding to the ATF in particular or to the Justice Department as a whole. It could even refuse to pay Holder’s salary until he purges his contempt. Lower down the scale of confrontation, the House could pass a resolution censuring him or continue to hold hearings designed to embarrass him.
UPDATE: White House Statement On Issa's Circus
Press Secretary Dan Pfeiffer didn't mention most Americans hold Congress in contempt. Instead he mildly rebuked Issa's Boehner's and Cantor's partisan game-playing.
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.
I notice the White House didn't criticize any of the right-wing Democrats who joined Issa's circus today.