After a last-ditch appeal by the White House fell flat Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters this morning that he will proceed on a vote Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding certain documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.
"The United States government ran a gunrunning operation that has resulted in hundreds of deaths," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Brian Terry's family has a right to know what happened. The American people have a right to know what happened and we're going to proceed."
The contempt resolution passed out of committee strictly down party lines and the debate Thursday promises to be a bitter dispute as well. Propounding the partisanship is the National Rifle Association, which announced last week it "will consider this vote in our future candidate evaluations." While that warning could persuade some Democrats to vote with the GOP, Boehner said the NRA has "no role" in the contempt vote as far as he's concerned, but rather the unprecedented move "is about getting to the truth."
Still, one week since the House Oversight and Government Reform committee passed a resolution finding Holder in contempt of Congress, the speaker was questioned about whether House Republicans are rushing the measure to the House floor in an effort to bury the partisan battle on the same day that the Supreme Court's landmark health care law decision is expected to be handed down.
"This vote was scheduled last week and … we'd really rather not be there," he said. "We'd really rather have the attorney general and the president work with us to get to the bottom of a very serious issue."
Later this afternoon, at 2:00 p.m., the House committee on Rules will meet to consider the contempt resolution "for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the committee on Oversight and Government Reform."
Boehner said Republicans had afforded the administration "ample opportunity to comply" with the subpoena, and he acknowledged that Republican staff went to the White House for a briefing by administration officials in a failed effort to avoid the contempt vote Thursday.
"Unfortunately, they're not willing to show the American people the truth about what happened," he said. "It's an unfortunate place where we are but our members raise their right hand and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the United States and we're going to do our job."
The speaker also brushed off criticism that the contempt vote distracts from the House Republicans' core mission to create jobs, and he accused the administration's leading Congress into a corner by lying to Congress.
"Listen, we've focused on jobs for 18 months and we're going to continue to focus on jobs and next month we'll move to stop the looming tax hikes," Boehner said.
"But while we're continuing to focus on jobs, there are other things that the Congress has to deal with and if the administration had cooperated with this investigation and had cooperated with our reasonable request for information about how this program got started and why they covered up the lies that they gave to the Congress, if they would have cooperated with us, we wouldn't have to be here."