The White House and House Republicans failed to reach a deal Tuesday to fend off a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., all but assuring that the House will move forward.
White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and Justice Department officials met Tuesday afternoon with aides to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and showed them roughly 30 documents requested by Issa as part of an ongoing investigation into Operation “Fast and Furious,” according to several administration and congressional officials.
But the GOP aides declined to accept Ruemmler’s offer that the Obama administration hand over the documents in exchange for Republicans permanently dropping plans to hold a contempt vote, the officials said.
One person familiar with Tuesday’s meeting said that Justice and White House officials showed the GOP staffers some of the requested internal deliberations from a period beginning in February 2011 and some information related to whistleblowers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that had been requested by Issa’s committee.
The administration and congressional officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting.
Issa has requested that Justice turn over the documents as part of an 18-month investigation into the botched gun-running operation directed by the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Despite sharing more than 7,000 documents, Holder and Justice Department officials have thus far refused to hand over the internal deliberations from last year, when lawmakers began seeking details into the operation.
President Obama last week invoked executive privilege over the documents after Holder warned the White House that sharing the information with Congress would have “damaging consequences” and inhibit administration officials from holding internal deliberations. Issa’s committee later voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the documents.
“This was a good faith effort to try to reach an accommodation while still protecting the institutional prerogatives of the Executive Branch, often championed by these same Republicans criticizing us right now,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday night. “Unfortunately Republicans have opted for political theater rather than conduct legitimate Congressional oversight.”
With the Thursday vote still scheduled to occur, House Democrats conceded that at least some of their members might support the Republican contempt motion, in part because the National Rifle Association is urging lawmakers to vote for it. Roughly 30 Democratic lawmakers previously co-signed a letter urging Holder to turn over the requested information, and several Democrats rely on the NRA’s endorsement in election years.
“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”
In a letter sent to lawmakers last week, the gun rights group said “It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder.” But the NRA said it supports the contempt resolution because of “the [Justice] Department’s obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.”
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