After a bitter partisan debate today, the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding certain documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.
Led by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, 108 Democrats skipped the vote, storming out of the chamber in protest.
The measure passed 255-67, with one member voting “present.” Seventeen of the Democrats who didn’t walk out voted with the Republican majority to hold Holder in contempt of Congress. Two Republicans, Reps. Steven LaTourette of Ohio and Scott Rigell of Virginia, opposed the resolution.
The vote marks the first time in the history of Congress that it has found a sitting U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress.
What happens to Holder next? If Congress wants to impeach him, ABC’s Matt Negrin reported last week, it will have to go through the Justice Department, which Holder leads.
The Justice Department isn’t compelled to prosecute the attorney general, according to a Reagan-era memo from the Office of Legal Counsel. Peter Shane, an expert of executive privilege at Ohio State, noted that this could lead to a standoff between Congress and the agency.
Later Thursday, the House voted on a second civil contempt resolution, which authorized the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce its subpoena.
Congressional GOP sources say the Oversight and Government Reform committee will now work with the House general counsel to pursue the case in federal court and ultimately compel Holder to hand over the documents.
“We are still fighting for the truth and accountability – for the family of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, for whistleblowers who have faced retaliation, and for countless victims of Operation Fast and Furious in Mexico,” Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, said in a statement after the vote. ”Unless President Obama relents to this bipartisan call for transparency and an end to the cover-up, our fight will move to the courts where we will prevail in getting the documents that the Justice Department and President Obama’s flawed assertion of executive privilege have denied the American people.”