U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will face a contempt vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives after lawmakers and the Justice Department failed to resolve a dispute over documents related to a botched gun-running probe, House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday.
The House is scheduled to vote on Thursday on whether to charge the nation's top law enforcement officer with contempt of Congress related to his withholding of documents in the "Fast and Furious" gun-running sting operation on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The White House has asserted executive privilege over some of the documents.
Legal analysts say there is little Congress could do to enforce a contempt citation against the attorney general. Normally it would be up to the Justice Department, which Holder heads, to enforce a contempt citation.
Fast and Furious, devised by law enforcement officials in Arizona, which borders Mexico, was aimed at tracing the illegal flow of guns from the United States over the border where they were suspected of falling into the hands of violent drug cartels.
Last week, the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a party-line vote, passed a measure to charge Holder with contempt of Congress. Democrats have accused Republicans of stoking a scandal for political gain to hurt Democratic President Barack Obama ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
"We'd really rather not be there. We'd really rather have the attorney general and the president work with us to get to the bottom of a very serious issue," Boehner told reporters, referring to the vote by the full House.
Boehner said that Republicans have given the Obama administration "ample opportunity" to comply with the committee's requests for documents.
"Unfortunately, they're not willing to show the American people the truth about what happened. It's an unfortunate place where we are," Boehner said.
Besides voting on the contempt charge against Holder, the House also is planning to consider a second resolution to ask U.S. courts to force Holder to turn over the documents. Some legal experts also doubt courts would want to get involved in the dispute, particularly when it involves a claim of executive privilege.
The Fast and Furious operation went awry when agents lost track of many of the guns and at least one was found at the murder site of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The Justice Department initially maintained that there was no operation in 2009 and 2010 to let guns "walk" over the border - a claim the agency later withdrew.
House Republicans are trying to determine whether high-ranking administration officials knew the true nature of Fast and Furious but withheld it from congressional investigators.
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