Black caucus to stage walkout during Holder contempt vote in House

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) plan to stage a walkout during Thursday’s vote on whether to place Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. 

The CBC is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the details of the walkout and is planning to circulate a letter to House Democrats requesting that they join them on the Capitol steps for a press conference during the contempt vote. 

The move comes less than 24 hours before the House plans to vote for the first time in history to hold a sitting attorney general in contempt of Congress for not complying with a congressional subpoena. Holder is the first black attorney general in U.S. history.

The walkout is reminiscent of a similar move made by Republicans in 2008 during a Democratic-led vote on whether to hold two senior staffers in President George W. Bush’s administration in contempt of Congress. 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — then the minority leader — led the walkout with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) following closely behind him. Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is the sponsor of the contempt resolution against Holder.

“The House floor is the scene of a partisan, political stunt,” said Boehner at the time. House Democrats have been expressing similar comments about the Holder contempt measure.  

On Wednesday evening, in a last-minute effort to stop the vote, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) hand-delivered a letter to Boehner signed by 65 Democrats who asked the Speaker to cancel the contempt resolution.

“The House Leadership’s actions are destructive election-year politics pure and simple," said Jackson Lee in a statement. 

The House Rules Committee reported the contempt resolution on Wednesday along party lines, designating 2 hours and 20 minutes of time for floor debate on Thursday. 

Issa has led Congress’s investigation of Operation Fast and Furious, a program that might have contributed to the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010.

At the center of the dispute is a letter that the Justice Department sent last year to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stating the agency does everything in its power to stop guns from going into Mexico. Ten months later, the DOJ took the rare step of withdrawing the letter because of false information.

Issa subpoenaed Holder for documents related to the DOJ letter, but the attorney general has refused to fully comply.

— This story was updated at 7:07 p.m.