Furious over a House vote June 28 finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats walked out of the vote in protest.
In all, 108 Democrats including minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Civil Rights Era icon John Lewis (D-Ga.) joined the protest of an action they called “silly,” according to The Los Angeles Times.
“We don’t want history to record that we participated in something that is so silly and detrimental to one human being,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “There will be a number of people from the Democratic side who will do something dramatic and that, in all likelihood, would be walking out of the chamber.”
The remaining House members voted in favor of two contempt measures against Holder, one civil and one criminal, according to CNN. The House approved the criminal contempt measure, 255-67, according to multiple sources. 17 Democrats voted in favor of the measure, and two Republicans voted against it. The civil measure passed in a 258-95 vote.
Holder was found in contempt in connection with an investigation into a tactic called “Fast and Furious,” in which authorities tracked weapons purchased by gun traffickers without immediately intercepting them. Holder was questioned over his refusal to turn over documents that showed how the Justice Department reacted to the investigation, and the loss of more than 1,000 tracked weapons.
According to CNN, the criminal contempt measure directs the matter to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who will decide whether to file charges against Holder—the man to whom he ultimately answers. The civil measure refers the dispute to a House committee, which could file lawsuits asking the courts to examine Holder’s failure to turn over subpoenaed documents.
Republican lawmakers, who pushed the contempt vote, said they wished the inquiry had never gotten to this point, but that they have laws to uphold.
“This vote was scheduled last week,” Speaker of the House John Boehner (R.) told Times. “We’d really rather have the attorney general and the president work with us to get to the bottom of a very serious issue.”
Not all Democrats protested the action. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), said the contempt vote was necessary to find out what happened during the “Fast and Furious” investigation.
“While Republicans and Democrats argue over the scope of the people’s right to know what happened, the Attorney General has decided to withhold relevant documents,” Barrow said in a statement. “The only way to get to the bottom of what happened is for the Department of Justice to turn over the remaining documents.”
According to CNN, the Hispanic Caucus, the Asian-Pacific American Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus may also participate in the walkout.
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