What happens when the country’s first black attorney general decides to defend voting rights? He’s held in contempt of Congress. At least that’s what House Democrat Nancy Pelosi is claiming about a House vote scheduled for Thursday on whether to hold Holder in contempt.
A House Committee last week decided to make a recommendation for a full vote for contempt, related to a “gun-walking” operation that began during the Bush era, when federal agents knowingly allowed arms dealers to purchase guns for Mexican drug cartels. After President Obama took office, Holder continued the program through 2011, but also began an investigation into what he has called the flawed and unacceptable gun-walking tactic.
Keep in mind that some 50,000 people have died as a result of the US-supported drug war in Mexico. But it wasn’t until a gun from the so-called Fast and Furious program was involved in the murder of a US border agent that the committee decided to go after the Obama administration. After Obama invoked executive privilege to protect Holder from the committee’s request for additional documents related to the program, a recommendation was made to vote to hold him in contempt in the full House.
In the meantime, Holder has made no secret of the fact that the Department of Justice will vigorously defend voters’ rights. From speeches to clergy groups to lawsuits to stop Florida’s purge of its rolls, Holder has been transparent about the Justice Department’s commitment to combat voter suppression in local, state, and federal contests. Queens County and Orange County, New York, primary elections are being monitored today to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act, as are many other elections this season.
But is Pelosi correct in asserting that Holder’s actions in favor of voting rights are prompting the move to hold him in contempt?
Perhaps what seems like a far-fetched theory holds water now that a Pennsylvania Republican has made clear that the state’s voter ID law will “allow Romney to win the state.” And in a little noticed rant from Senator John Cornyn earlier this month, the Texas Republican challenged Holder to resign, citing in part, that Holder’s “department blocks states from implementing attempts to combat voter fraud.” Cornyn is, of course, entitled to his opinion, but he expressed it during Holder’s ninth appearance before a Senate committee to answer questions not about voter ID, but about the gun-walking program.
If the House votes along party lines (just as the committee did) this week to hold Holder in contempt, it will mark the first time an Attorney General has faced such a predicament—and it could very well be because he’s had the audacity to protect voter rights.
Herman Cain Returns to Batter Holder
Meanwhile, disgraced former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is back this week, attacking Holder’s record on protecting voter rights. He’s teamed up with Ken Blackwell—who’s credited with dubious tactics in the 2004 president race, during his stint as Ohio’s secretary of state. Replete with images from the black civil rights movement that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the two black conservatives tout that “elections should never be about color.” Except, of course, that voter suppression disproportionately affects people of color. Watch Cain and Blackwell go at it for yourself: