The GOP-led House voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide key information pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, making Holder the first sitting Cabinet member to be held in contempt.
The vote was 255 to 67. Seventeen Democrats joined the majority of Republicans in voting yes. GOP Rep. Dan Lipinski voted not present, and 65 Democrats left the floor before the vote.
The vote follows a roughly 16-month investigation by the chamber’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the failed gun-running sting known as Fast and Furious -- run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a division of the Justice Department led by Holder.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa filed two subpoenas over that period requesting additional information, but has most recently focused on more information related to a February 2011 letter to Congress that falsely claimed ATF was unaware the operation involved the underground sale of assault weapons.
“Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided -- and politically motivated -- investigation during an election year,” Holder said after the vote. “By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.”
Prior to the vote, House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “It’s important to remember how we got here. The Justice Department has not provided the facts and information we requested. … It’s our constitutional duty to find out.”
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argued House Republicans were more politically motivated in attacking Holder than getting to the bottom of the failed operation, in which at least two of the guns were connected to the fatal shooting of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.
“What is happening here is shameful," said Pelosi, D-Calif.
Lawmakers earlier voted against a proposal by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., to return the matter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.