Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., will lead fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus in walking out on a House of Representatives vote this afternoon on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer, in contempt of Congress.
If the effort succeeds, which is is expected to do, it will make Holder the first attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt.
The issue has devolved into a high-stakes constitutional showdown between the legislative and executive branches of government. The House is demanding more internal Justice Department documents about its handling of Operation Fast and Furious -– a failed gun-tracking effort. The White House has asserted executive privilege to shield the documents, leading to the move to cite Holder in contempt.
Republicans said that they had no choice but to pursue contempt because they’re being blocked by Holder’s Justice Department from seeking the truth about Fast and Furious, an operation in which federal officials allowed guns to illegally "walk" into Mexico from the United States with the aim of tracking drug cartels. Some of the weapons were used in violent crimes; two were found at the scene where a U.S. border agent was killed.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday called the contempt effort "political theater." He said that the administration has negotiated in good faith with House Republicans who "have made the strategic choice to try to score political points...rather than focusing on jobs and the economy."
Congressional Democrats also called the contempt vote part of a partisan election-year witch hunt and an effort to politically cripple an attorney general whose agency is investigating things that many Republicans don't like, including possible voter suppression.