The House of Representatives is set, for the first time in its history, to find a sitting attorney general in contempt of Congress on Thursday.
While the highly unusual proceeding will likely be overshadowed by the Supreme Court’s decision on the health care reform law, the Thursday vote will also see the peak of a scandal that has for years been the fever dream of conservative media outlets, but that only went fully national when House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) started down the path towards contempt.The vote is technically on a resolution that cites Holder’s failure to turn over documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee. In reality, the case has become about the power of the gun lobby and a conspiracy theory that contends the Obama administration sent guns to Mexican drug cartels to butter up the public so they would accept a gutting of the Second Amendment.
Tuesday brought two key developments in the Fast and Furious saga, which first came under major public scrutiny in March 2011, just after Holder ordered DOJ’s inspector general to investigate the matter.
First, Fortune magazine published the results of an extensive investigation that undermined the central component of the Fast and Furious scandal: that ATF agents purposefully allowed guns to “walk.” Second, Issa admitted that he had no evidence, nor did he strongly believe, that Holder knew guns had “walked” during the operation.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner said he wasn’t sure if Fast and Furious was about gun control and a few House Democrats held a news conference criticizing the Holder contempt vote.
Thursday’s vote should be pretty full of theatrics: There’s still the mystery of precisely how many Democrats will be pressured by the fact that the NRA is “scoring” the vote against Holder. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are planning to walk out of the proceedings.
But after the vote likely goes through, the story of Fast and Furious will likely be on the back burner, at least until DOJ’s inspector general issues its report on the matter. Lawyers for the House and for the Justice Department will likely reach some sort of agreement after the House sues DOJ in federal court.
The contempt proceedings will get underway around 12:30 p.m., just over two hours after the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare. It should take up much of the afternoon.