The Darrell Issa-vs-Eric Holder Controversy Is About To Get Good

The Hill had an interesting report this morning…

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has circulated a draft copy of a resolution that would hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

The 44-page measure was sent to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday in an attempt to shore up support for what would be the toughest action taken by Issa as chairman of the powerful panel.

Issa has been investigating the botched gun tracking operation Fast and Furious for more than a year and has repeatedly expressed his frustration at the Department of Justice’s lack of cooperation.

Issa has issued two subpoenas to obtain documents from DOJ, and is arguing that the agency’s glacial pace in returning the requested information provides cause for holding Holder in contempt of Congress.

“The Justice Department’s failure to respond appropriately to the allegations of whistleblowers and to cooperate with congressional oversight has crossed the line of appropriate conduct for a government agency,” reads a 17-page memo attached to the draft copy of the resolution on contempt circulated to members.

“Congress now faces a moment of decision between exerting its full authority to compel an agency refusing to cooperate with congressional oversight or accepting a dangerous expansion of executive-branch authority and unilateral action allowing agencies to set their own terms for cooperating with congressional oversight.”

This has obviously been coming for some time, though lots of DC insiders have predicted House Speaker John Boehner would squash it before a contempt of Congress citation would get this far. Boehner’s a bit more combative than folks thought.

As for Holder, he’s been practically begging for this fight, and not just on the Fast and Furious front. Holder’s office is assaulting the traditional role of the Justice Department on front after front – the DOJ’s Voting Rights Division has been busy earning not just a contempt of Congress citation but an impeachment ever since the New Black Panthers voter intimidation case, for example.

So we’re going to have it, and in an election year. If the House Republicans want to both rein in an out-of-control DOJ and make the Obama administration answerable for Holder’s performance in November, this isn’t a bad way to go about it. But the focus has to be on performance and accountability, not partisanship. Because the independents out there aren’t on the Republican side; they think both parties are slime.

That has to be remembered if you don’t want to blow this chance to ruin the career of somebody who deserves it completely.

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