GOP leadership rankled by resolution calling for attorney general’s head

More than 100 Republicans in the House are clamoring for Eric Holder’s head, but GOP leaders are reluctant to vote on a measure suggesting the ouster of the U.S. attorney general.

Freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) is leading the charge. He said he won’t let up until he gets a vote on his resolution. 

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But top-ranking Republicans tasked with scheduling a vote on the measure are playing hot potato with the issue, arguing that it’s not their responsibility while overlooking a growing chorus of outrage within their conference. 

The measure, which expresses the sense that the lower chamber lacks confidence in Holder to continue as the nation’s top cop, has been sitting with the House Judiciary Committee — one of the busiest legislative committees in the House — since December, as Gosar has steadily added to its retinue of co-sponsors. 

Asked Wednesday for comment about the fate of Gosar’s resolution, committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) indicated his support for the measure.

“I share the concerns of my colleagues and many Americans about the Justice Department’s lack of transparency and continued refusal to cooperate with legitimate congressional inquiries,” Smith said in a statement. “It is hard to imagine how anyone can have confidence in the Holder Justice Department or Obama White House after the continued stonewalling of Congress and disregard of the Constitution.” 

Asked for comment about whether they were pressing for a vote on the measure, House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) offices said only that they do not handle the schedule of the House floor. Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office, which does schedule the floor agenda, did not respond to numerous email and phone requests for comment. 

Tea Party Caucus member Steve King (R-Iowa) said Republican leadership is wary of using investigations it’s conducting of the administration for political gain, especially when it comes to Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-tracking program. 

“I think leadership doesn’t want to be seen as using the gavels here for political purposes,” King said in an interview. “I think there’s a bit of an aversion to that. Me? I have no reservations about that. This is politics.”

King, who has signed onto the measure and sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said he has not heard anything recently about where the resolution stands. 

Gosar’s office said he “has not had any assurances from leadership” that the measure will receive a vote, but he will continue pressing for one.  

“The congressman has been focused on building congressional support through co-sponsors and grassroots support … and will be aggressively pressing leadership to bring it to the floor in a timely manner,” Gosar spokeswoman Apryl Marie Fogel said in a statement.

Gosar has racked up 107 co-sponsors for the measure and spoken with several senators about possibly introducing a companion bill in the upper chamber, according to his office. 

Despite the growing drumbeat of support, Republican leaders might have good reason to be wary of holding a vote on the measure: It might not pass. Of the 23 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, only 12 have signed onto the resolution. And considering the unlikelihood of any Democrat voting for the measure, Gosar will need more than the 45 percent of the House Republican Conference he currently has supporting it.

But pressure on Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy has been growing recently over the issue of Fast and Furious, with local Tea Party groups complaining that the leaders are not being as vocal about the operation’s missteps as they would like. 

Fast and Furious was a botched federal gun-tracking operation run through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — under the Justice Department — that authorized the sale of nearly 2,000 firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels. 

Republicans for more than a year have been investigating the operation, which might have led to the murder of at least one federal agent. They have blasted Holder for not being more forthcoming with the thousands of pages of documents they have requested. The DOJ’s inspector general, at Holder’s request, is conducting its own investigation.


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