In a move some labeled “political theater,” the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted last week to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his continued refusal to turn over documents related to a failed covert operation called Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious was an effort that began in 2009 and allegedly involved the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency allowing guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartel members and “walked” into Mexico in an effort to develop criminal cases against the cartel.
However, ATF reportedly lost track of some 1,400 guns, and a number of the weapons have been used in border violence. Some were also found at the site of an Arizona battle in which U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was gunned down by suspected drug smugglers.
The action by the House unleashed a series of reactions, including a walk-out of House Democrats led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Under a contempt of Congress charge, there are civil and criminal actions that can follow. First, the U.S. Senate has the option of concurring with the House. In this instance, the Democratic-led upper house declined to do so.
Second, criminal charges could be filed against Holder by the Department of Justice, which he leads. That did not happen either.
Finally, civil charges could be filed against the attorney general in the Circuit Court in Washington, D.C. According to experts, this is a long drawn-out process.