An Open Letter to the Citizens of the
2nd Congressional District of Virginia
On the Votes Holding
Attorney General Eric Holder
in Contempt of Congress
June 29, 2012
It is the duty of each Member of Congress to give careful consideration to each vote cast. Certain votes, by virtue of their force if enacted into law, require extraordinary attention and deliberation. Such was the case with two resolutions I voted on yesterday, H.Res. 706 and H.Res. 711, both of which held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
The resolutions hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress for his failure to fully cooperate with the House of Representatives' investigation of the events leading to – and following – the letter he provided to Congress dated February 4, 2011. Attorney General Holder later admitted that the letter contained false information and therefore withdrew it.
Though many layers of issues entered into the debate, the foundational issues underlying both resolutions are 1) the proper constitutional boundary between Congress and the Executive Branch; and 2) whether Mr. Holder’s actions rise to the level of criminal conduct which connotes intent and malice.
To hold the highest law enforcement official in America in criminal contempt is a most serious matter. Although I am willing to take that step, I believe that at this point Mr. Holder’s actions fall just short, albeit by the smallest margin, of meeting the standard of criminal misconduct. Further, finding Mr. Holder in civil contempt accomplishes Congress’ need to obtain documents related to Fast and Furious. Accordingly, I voted against the criminal contempt resolution and for the civil contempt resolution. This would allow Congress to seek a judicial order of contempt unless the Department of Justice hands over the requested documents.
As part of my due diligence, I met this week with legal experts from both parties and I attended the floor debates that preceded both votes. I watched the debates with growing disappointment as House Democrats orchestrated a ‘made-for-television’ moment and walked off the House floor in protest, charging that the contempt votes were politically motivated.
I reject this. There was a sound legal basis for both resolutions to come before the House. They were not based on race, or politics, or partisanship. Nor were they about defending our Second Amendment rights. They were not even a referendum on Fast and Furious.
Instead, both resolutions were tightly focused on the issue of how Mr. Holder’s February 4, 2011, letter was produced and later withdrawn. They focused on the responsiveness of the Attorney General to legitimate demands by Congress for information and documentation needed to fulfill its constitutional duty to conduct oversight.
When my vote against criminal contempt appeared on the board, it quickly got the attention of my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats. To their credit, my colleagues from both parties were supportive of my right, indeed, my duty, to vote my conscience. I respect and appreciate this. I also understand and respect the votes they cast.
I have made clear my view that the Attorney General has not served President Obama and the American people well. He has admitted that Fast and Furious was a botched operation. He has admitted that his initial response to the Congressional oversight of that failed operation, which culminated in the February 4, 2011, letter, was inaccurate. If for no other reason than managerial incompetence, I believe he should resign. Absent his resignation, the President should replace him.
I also believe we should use restraint to avoid constitutional showdowns. That, to me, includes the use of incremental sanctions, including, when warranted, criminal contempt charges. But if Congress can obtain the documents through a civil contempt citation, then why immediately choose the sanction of last resort: criminal contempt?
Although knowing that I will at times fail in reason or judgment, I will continue to elevate above all else the duty I have to cast a fully-informed vote, one that allows me to walk off the House floor with a clear conscience. That is what is required of me by the Oath of Office I took my first day in office, and it is what is expected of me by the good people I have the privilege to serve and represent.
Mindful that I work for you, I remain,
Yours in Freedom,