WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The partisan divide in Washington is showing no signs of letting up. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has indicated she backs Republican efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
The controversy started as part of an investigation of a program started under then-President George W. Bush in 2006. The program was called “Fast and Furious” and involved sending guns across the border to Mexico. President Obama’s administration kept the program going after Bush left office.READ MORE: First Suspected Case Of Monkeypox In Broward, Warning Signs To Look For
“Mr. Holder continues to stonewall Congress about this operation,” Ros-Lehtinen’s office said in a statement to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald. “Mr. HOlder has not been forthcoming nor cooperative in the Committee’s efforts to find out what exactly occurred with the disastrous ‘Fast and Furious’ program that put guns int he hands of Mexican drug cartels.”
At least one of the guns was used to kill U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry along the U.S./Mexican border.
Congressman Darrell Issa has made it his singular goal as head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to possibly take down Holder over the program. Congressman Issa’s scheduled a contempt vote in the House committee for June 20.
Ironically, Issa himself is fighting off demands for him to turn over documents under subpoena in a separate case.
For his part, Holder has testified on the program several times and the Justice Department has turned over 7,000 pages of material to Issa’s committee. Issa has said that it’s not enough and has subpoenaed nearly a quarter-million pages of documents.READ MORE: Florida Lawmakers Meet For Property Insurance Special Session
Part of the problem separating the two sides is Justice Department claims that many of the documents subpoenaed could be parts of ongoing criminal investigations, which are not able to be subpoenaed by Congress.
According to the Justice Department, “We are not in a position to disclose such documents, nor can we confirm or deny the existence of records in our ongoing investigative files.”
The Justice Department cited previous opinions, including a Reagan official, who said that giving documents that are part of an active criminal investigation would “place the Congress in a position to exert pressure or attempt to influence the prosecution of criminal cases.”
The last time Congress was holding contempt of Congress votes for administration officials came in 2008 when two White House officials, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten, were cited. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and both Diaz-Balart brothers didn’t vote on the contempt motion.
Issa has the support of senior Republican leadership in Congress to move ahead with his planned vote. If the entire House votes to hold Holder in contempt, it would then be handed off to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.MORE NEWS: SW Miami-Dade Crash, One Dead
Issa’s initial committee vote is scheduled for June 20. It’s expected to move forward along party lines both in committee and in the House overall.