House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi blasted Wednesday's contempt proceedings over the Oversight and Government Reform committee's Fast and Furious investigation as a "shameful display of abuse of power" by House Republicans. She claims it's part of a right-wing "over-the-edge" scheme to strike back against Attorney General Eric Holder for defending voting rights across the country.
"It is no accident, it is no coincidence that the attorney general of the United States is the person responsible for making sure that voter suppression does not happen in our country, that issues that relate to the civil liberties of the American people are upheld," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters as she began her weekly news conference. "These very same people who are holding him in contempt are part of a nationwide scheme to suppress the vote."
Pelosi said she was "trying to enlarge the issue" for reporters and repetitively noted her belief that the contempt citation is a concerted "decision to suppress the vote, to validate policies that have increased the deficit and increased unemployment in our country."
"This is part of the scheme that the right-wing over-the-edge - and I don't think that all Republicans subscribe to this - but the over-the-edge gang, which dominates the House of Representatives."
"Contempt of Congress? Contempt of Congress?" she asked incredulously. "To frivolously use that really important vehicle to undermine the person who's assigned to stop the voter suppression in our country - I'm telling you, this is connected. It is no accident. It is a decision, and it is as clear as can be. It's not only to monopolize his time, it's to undermine his name. To undermine his name, undermine his name as he goes forward to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
A short time later, House Speaker John Boehner denied that the contempt proceedings are part of any plan to retaliate against Holder, but rather "Congress also has a responsibility to the American people to learn the truth about what happened in Fast and Furious."
"On February the 4th, 2011, the Department of Justice denied allegations that it allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico. Ten months later, the Justice Department formally withdrew its denial and acknowledged that it made false claims to Congress about this reckless operation," he said. "The Obama administration however has stonewalled Congress' legitimate oversight responsibilities to find out how and why it made these false claims."
Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the White House's decision to invoke executive privilege "is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that misled the Congress and have covered up the truth."
"What is the Obama administration hiding in Fast and Furious?" he asked. "This is a very serious matter, and until yesterday, it was just the Department of Justice that we were concerned about. Clearly at the 11th hour and 50th minute, the White House decided to inject themselves into this, where there had been no indication that a White House had been involved at all."
"Why the White House would invoke executive privilege over Department of Justice documents raises, I think, very serious questions," he added.
After the committee approved the citation in a party-line vote Wednesday, Boehner announced that the House would vote next week on the contempt resolution unless the White House and Department of Justice turns over the documents in question.
Still, Boehner did not call for Holder's resignation, telling reporters "it's not about personalities" but rather he wants truthful answers "about where this program started, why it continued, and why an American border agent was killed as a result of it."