Even though it doesn’t happen every day — 80 members of Congress walking out of the House chamber protesting a vote — the “mainstream” press barely covered the protest. Capitol Hill publications have it a mention — but go try to find a story in the Washington Post or the New York Times.
Here is the story:
About eighty House Democrats walked out of the House Chamber in protest when the contempt vote on Attorney General Eric Holder began this afternoon. Though the effort to protest the contempt vote on Holder was conceived by Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, it gained steam among non-CBC members.
The contempt vote against Holder was the first against any White House cabinet official in American history.
The vote passed easily in the GOP controlled House by 255 to 67. Many Democrats didn’t either vote “nay” before walking out of the chamber.
Eric Holder is the first African American to hold the position of Attorney General. He is the 82nd person to serve in the position. Holder also served briefly in the position in 2001 under President George W. Bush before John Ashcroft.
Democrats were very angry with the way the Republican controlled House proceeded on the matter of the investigation of a gun operation known as Fast and Furious. They were particularly unhappy with House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).
The stakes were raised even higher when the House’s most senior member, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who is 85, offered a resolution to conduct a bi-partisan investigation. Dingell, who has served in the House since 1955, was critical of the Republican led investigation of Holder.
Democrats had very strong words on the matter.
“We’re doing what has never been done in 111 Congresses,” said Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD). ”I believe the political motivations behind this motion present a clear and present danger to this country,” he strongly added.
“The vote should not be dignified with an answer… This is a cheap political stunt to bring disfavor to the President of the United States,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).
“It may just be a coincidence, I don’t know, that the Attorney General is fighting voter suppression… it may just be a coincidence. Or maybe it isn’t,” said former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). ”Just when you think they couldn’t possibly go over the edge they come up with something like this,” she added. Pelosi announced she would join Democrats in protest and not appear on the House floor during the vote.
“This should be called fast and foolish or fast and fake,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) on the House floor as she referred to the contempt vote on Holder. “What we are doing here is a travesty to this country and to this institution,” she added.
“This proceedure does violence to the Constitution. In the 223 years of this instutition there has never been a vote like this before,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ). “This procedure diminishes the House. It should not go forward,” he added.
“The contempt resolution is disgraceful and should not be brought to the House… this is unheard of and it is disrespectful to this House,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD).
The Department of Justice has provided over 7,600 pages of documents to the House Oversight Committee. The Attorney General has appeared before Congress nine times on the matter of Fast and Furious.
“Republicans are not looking for a resolution or to compromise they are looking to embarrass the Attorney General… It is time for us to simply walk away from the nonsense,” Edwards added.
“What began as a legitimate investigation has degenerated into a partisan political attack,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Many of the Republicans who argued in favor of the contempt vote were elected in 2010. The National Rifle Association is scoring the vote, which has compelled several Democrats to join the Republicans.
Republicans Darrell Issa (R-CA), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Richard Nugent (R-FL) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) led the debate on the House floor for the Republicans. They made the point that it’s Congresses’ duty to investigate Fast and Furious and the matter of Agent Brian Terry’s death. Issa stood next to a photo of Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in 2010, as he spoke on the floor.
Many Democrats say Oversight Committee Chair Issa could have avoided the action in Committee and that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could have prevented the vote from being considered on the House floor.