Black Congressmen To Walk Out During Contempt Vote

By Shane Goldmacher

The Congressional Black Caucus has called a members-only “emergency” meeting on Thursday to plot a “walkout strategy” ahead of the scheduled contempt vote of Attorney General Eric Holder later in the day.

The plans, detailed in an email from the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus obtained by theAlley, include circulating a letter disapproving of the vote and having lawmakers walk out of the Capitol to hold a press conference during the roll call.

The letter, a draft of which is being circulated for signatures, accuses the GOP leadership of “rushing recklessly to a contempt vote.” The letter is being circulated among the Black, Hispanic, Asian and Progressive caucuses, among other.

“We cannot and will not participate in a vote to hold the Attorney General in contempt,” says the letter, in which the signers urge that “all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation’s most significant priority–creating jobs.”

The House is expected to vote on Thursday hold Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to release certain documents related to the failed “Fast and Furious” gun-running program.

At moments, the fight has taken on racial undertones, most notably when Holder, who is African American, told the New York Times in December 2011 that he served as a stand-in for GOP attacks on President Obama. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him,” Holder said, “both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.”

A copy of the full draft letter is below:


Dear Colleague:

We write to urge you to stand with us in the pursuit of justice for the Attorney General of the United States of America, Eric H. Holder. In its history, the United States House of Representatives has never held a United States Attorney General, or any other Cabinet official, in contempt.

Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity.

Over the past 15 months, Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice have cooperated with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s requests for information on “Fast and Furious”, an unfortunate operation that began under the Bush Administration and, in fact, was terminated by Attorney General Holder. The Department has made extraordinary efforts to accommodate Congress by turning over almost 8,000 documents–including all the documents that relate to the tactics in this investigation and the other flawed investigations that occurred in Arizona during the Bush Administration. The Attorney General also participated in a bicameral meeting in a good faith effort to satisfy the Committee’s information requests. While the Attorney General has advised House Republicans that he is willing to work with them in attempting to reach an agreement, the Republican Leadership is instead rushing recklessly to a contempt vote.

Contempt power should be used sparingly, carefully and only in the most egregious situations. The Republican Leadership has articulated no legislative purpose for pursuing this course of action. For these reasons we cannot and will not participate in a vote to hold the Attorney General in contempt. We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an Attorney General who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice.

We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation’s most significant priority–creating jobs. At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies.


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