The biggest news coming out of the House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, besides the vote itself and Holder's contemptuous response to it, is the 17 Democrats who voted for criminal contempt, and the 21 who voted for civil contempt. This second group includes the same 17 who voted for criminal contempt (see list in June 29 Morning Briefing), plus Ron Barber (AZ), Peter DeFazio (OR), Mike Michaud (ME), and Brad Miller (NC). The roster clearly demonstrates that the grouping was actually quite broad politically, and by no means limited to Blue Dogs, as some media have tried to argue. This is particularly true of Peter DeFazio, who is a leading figure in the left-liberal wing of the party, is part of the anti-war bloc, and has been a sponsor of Glass-Steagall legislation. And Ron Barber is the former staffer for Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, who replaced her recently in a special election after she announced her resignation from Congress.
The Washington Post, in an article posted yesterday, tries to put its own deceiving spin on the developments, by attributing these Democratic votes to 1) the power of the GOP to make Holder a radioactive issue in some key swing districts, 2) the power of the National Rifle Association to make Fast and Furious a hot issue, and 3) the desire of the Democrats to show their independence by distancing themselves from Holder.
The real story, however, is that these Democrats are actually distancing themselves from President Obama, who is the one Holder is running cover for, and that moreover the case is part of the general "swarming" against the Obama Presidency by a growing coalition of forces that increasingly recognizes he is poison to the continued existence of the nation.
A few of those Democrats gave their own explanations as to why they voted the way they did, but it all adds up to the same thing: Obama is the problem. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) told the Post that "In my district, I hear a lot about Fast and Furious. It's in the public discourse," for which he credited the NRA. He said his own vote was motivated by a desire to see Holder release the documents to the Congress. Altmire added, in comments to CNN, that "The fact is that the House has jurisdiction in oversight over these types of investigations. The attorney general was asked to provide information, and he chose not to provide it. So as a result, I had no other choice, but to vote in contempt." Altmire lost his primary bid to Rep. Mark Critz, another Democrat who also voted for contempt.
"I feel Congress has a constitutional responsibility to exercise effective oversight regardless of which administration," said Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (W.Va.). "If there is nothing incriminating in those documents, I see no reason why they should not have been turned over." Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Ia.), told the Des Moines Register that "I voted in support of contempt because I believe we need to be as transparent as possible so we can get to the bottom of this and bring this investigation to a close."