Jim Matheson becomes first Democrat to back placing Eric Holder in contempt

Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah) on Tuesday became the first Democrat to declare his support for placing Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

"It just compounds the tragedy when both sides play politics instead of releasing the facts. The Terry family, the public and Congress deserve answers," said Matheson, according to The Salt Lake Tribine. "Sadly, it seems that it will take holding the attorney general in contempt to communicate that evasiveness is unacceptable."

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Matheson’s announcement comes two days before House Republicans plan to vote on the unprecedented measure before the full chamber, even as President Obama has asserted executive privilege over requested documents at the center of the partisan furor.

The six-term lawmaker, who represents the most heavily Republican district of any incumbent Democrat, was one of 31 Democrats to send a letter to President Obama last year expressing grave concerns over the administration’s handling of the botched gun-tracking operation, "Fast and Furious."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the lead congressional investigator of Fast and Furious, has been pushing hard to attract the support of some of those 31 Democrats.


In calls to the remaining 30 Democrats who signed the letter, only four — Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), Martin Heinrich (N.M.) and Gene Green (Texas) — told The Hill they were planning to vote against the contempt measure, while a spokesman for one lawmaker — Rep. Mike Michaud (Maine) — said he was undecided.

Matheson, up for reelection, enjoys above 50 percent support in recent polls and leads his opponent by 15 percentage points. Matheson leads Saratoga Springs Republican Mayor Mia Love by 53 to 38 percent, according to a poll from the Deseret News — an uptick in support from the last public poll of the race. An  April Salt Lake Tribune poll put him at just a 3-point lead.

Matheson’s newly redrawn district would have given President Obama just 41 percent of its vote in 2008. But the Blue Dog Coalition co-chairman has high name recognition in the state and has already proven his mettle by surviving the 2010 GOP wave in an even tougher district, albeit against a weaker candidate.

Cameron Joseph contributed to this article.