Cracks have started to appear in the wholehearted Democratic support for embattled Attorney General Eric Holder as he faces possible contempt hearings for refusing to hand over papers relating to the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.
Three House Democrats and one Senate candidate have added their voices to the growing clamor for Holder and his Justice Department to come clean on the scheme that allowed thousands of guns to fall into the hands of violent Mexican drug cartels.
The move comes the day before congressmen will be given the opportunity to vent on their feelings in the case in a “special order” session which is expected to result in a concerted Republican call for Holder to quit or be fired.
The three congressmen, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Gene Green of Texas, and Ron Kind of Wisconsin, were among 31 Democratic representatives who signed a letter last summer urging the Justice Department to cooperate with investigations being spearheaded by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
But they are the first to say that Holder and his department have failed to live up to the expectations they expressed in the letter which was sent to President Barack Obama in June last year. “I know there’s embarrassment at ATF, and I know this program is not just under President Obama,” Rahall told The Washington Times. “It was going on previous to that, but they ought to deal with it. They ought to clean it up and make sure that doesn’t happen.”
He said he “has a great deal of confidence” in Holder, “pending my reading of that report, that is.”
Green added, “They ought to deal with this problem, because there is no reason at all that that many weapons should have made it over to Mexico . . . It’s such a black eye on the ATF and the Department of Justice and our government that we allow that to happen.”
Kind told the Times, “We want to see these reports . . . proceed expeditiously, because if there are things that need to be fixed, we need to be working on that right now other than delaying it any further.”
He then added,"You’re not going to ask for an expedited review and sugarcoat it,” saying the letter was sent to Obama to show members of his own party “are concerned about getting this investigation to a conclusion as quickly as possible.”
The trio of congressmen have now been joined by Indiana state Rep. Joe Donnelly, who will face off against the GOP’s Richard Mourdock for the U.S. Senate in November. “One of the duties of Congress is to provide oversight of the executive branch,” Donnelly told the Daily Caller. “There has been a serious allegation of federal law enforcement misconduct and we need to get to the bottom of this issue without playing partisan politics.”
Up until now, most Democrats have refrained from criticizing Holder’s handling of the Fast and Furious case, claiming the GOP was playing party politics and trying to embarrass the Obama administration in the run-up to the election. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member on Issa’s Oversight Committee, even claimed that the GOP is involved in a “witch hunt” against Holder.
But they will have a chance to join the criticism in Thursday’s hearing which has been called by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who has challenged them to speak out.
“I continue to marvel at the defense of inaction by the minority, which calls this ‘partisan politics,' ” Gosar said. “I'm confident that the criminals who have firearms, obtained with help by our nation’s government, will not be checking voter registration cards when choosing their victims. The people around the nation, but specifically in Arizona where Operation Fast and Furious was carried out, deserve more from their president and their attorney general.”
Gosar said Holder “must be held accountable for the actions of his department and for his personal unwillingness to cooperate with congressional oversight requests.
“I will not rest until full answers are given about this gun-running scheme, and justice is served for those responsible.”
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