Parties prepare for Eric Holder showdown Thursday

ByABC News
June 27, 2012, 5:23 PM

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Following yet another failed attempt at compromise Tuesday evening between the Justice Department and Republican lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner confirmed Wednesday that a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress will proceed Thursday as scheduled.

"We'd really rather not be here," Boehner told reporters. "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 is among the Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill backing the decision to hold Holder in contempt over the Justice Department's refusal to hand over documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for their investigation of the failed Fast and Furious gunwalking operation.

The Justice Department, the White House and many Democrats say the government has been cooperative and released numerous documents and they defend the Justice Department's decision to withhold additional documents they say contain internal deliberations. President Obama last Wednesday stepped in to exert executive privilege over the documents in question, but the Oversight Committee--on which Republicans outnumber Democrats-- voted regardless to hold the Attorney General in contempt.

Democrats charge that Republicans are simply playing politics with the issue and are not interested in reaching a compromise or solution with Democrats.

"They have shown very little interest in reaching a resolution, instead they have chosen a path of political confrontation and theater," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of Republican leaders at Wednesday's briefing.

"It's very political... " Assistant Democratic House Leader James Clyburn said on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown" Wednesday. "General Holder is doing exactly what he ought to do and that is run his office the way he was sworn to run it and not allow himself to be bullied into doing things that could violate the law and destroy the credibility of the judicial system."

Clyburn said there were gunwalking episodes that took place during the Bush administration. "Why is Mr. Issa not asking for all of these records?" he asked, referring to Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa.

Last week  the vote to hold Holder in contempt passed on a party-line vote 23 to 17. The full House is scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday.

But further complicating things for Democrats is a threat from the National Rifle Association, a powerful electoral and lobbying force, which warned members last week that the organization will use votes on the Holder contempt measure on their annual scorecard to rate members. NRA officials as well as Issa have charged the officials behind Fast and Furious with using the failed operation to help them argue for tougher gun control laws.

House Democratic White Steny Hoyer conceded Tuesday that the NRA threat could carry weight.

"I think there are some members who will consider the recommendations of the NRA," Hoyer told reporters.

Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Nick Rahall of West Virginia, all of whom are running for re-election in very competitive districts this year, are among those Democratic House members who have already publicly announced plans to side with a majority of Republicans and vote to hold Holder in contempt.

Republicans charge that lawmakers must hold the attorney general accountable as a duty to both the American public as well the family of slain border agent Brian Terry, who was killed in December of 2010. Fast and Furious guns were recovered from the crime scene.

Lawmakers hoping to capitalize on Thursday's vote will be competing for broadcast time with the Supreme Court, which is expected to hand down its ruling on Obamacare Thursday morning.