CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Nick Rahall said Wednesday he will be one of a handful of Democrats to vote Thursday to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents related to a failed gun-tracking operation known as "Fast and Furious.""The Congress has a constitutional responsibility to ensure that our government -- whether controlled by a Republican or Democratic administration -- answers to the people," Rahall told the Gazette on Wednesday.The ongoing dispute relates to the Justice Department-approved tactic of allowing guns to cross the border illegally from Arizona into Mexico in an attempt to track down Mexican firearms traders.House Republicans say Holder has declined to release critical documents to Congress about Operation Fast and Furious by the U.S. government.
The documents at the heart of the argument are not directly related to the workings of Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed guns to "walk'' from Arizona to Mexico in hopes they could be tracked. The department has given House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., 7,600 documents on the operation.Rather, Issa wants internal communications from February 2011, when the administration denied knowledge of the program, to the end of that year, when officials acknowledged the denial was erroneous. Those documents covered a period after Fast and Furious had been shut down.White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the White House and the Department of Justice have already released a representative sample of the documents House Republicans were seeking.
Carney said the Obama administration's offer would have provided "unprecedented access'' to House members to internal communications involved in the controversial effort to track down weapons traders. Besides Rahall, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Jim Matheson, D-Utah, also had said they would vote to hold Holder in contempt of Congress.A few more Democratic members of the House also might vote in favor of holding Holder in contempt."This matter should never have come to the point that the Congress would be considering the question of contempt on the part of a member of the executive branch," Rahall said."But, as with most messes, the sooner we clean it up, the better. This has gone on way too long over two administrations," he said, referring to the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations. "We need to move on."The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-3348-5164.