The House of Representatives appears ready to vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress later this week in the standoff over documents from the botched Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation, barring a last-minute negotiated settlement between the Department of Justice and House leadership.
But such a deal looks unlikely. The DOJ has said Holder would rather "take his lumps" than turn over some of the documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as part of a probe, according to investigators for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who were at a meeting on the issue last week.
And the chairman of that committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), took to the Sunday political talk show circuit to say he and House leadership would not back down this week unless he had those documents in hand.
"And if the president and Attorney General Holder would simply start producing the documents they know they could produce to us that are not by any means going to be covered by executive privilege, this could be delayed or even eliminated," Issa told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. "But we have to see the documents first. We can't have a promise that we're going to be satisfied and dismiss this contempt."
On the same program, Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Oversight committee, urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to "show strong leadership" and sit down and work it out.
"I think it's extremely unfortunate and I absolutely don't think that we needed to be at this place," Cummings said. "I'm really kind of saddened that at this point in the history of the Congress, that we would be finding this attorney general in contempt."
A floor vote on contempt most likely would take place Wednesday or later. A House Oversight Committee vote that moved the contempt hearing to the full Senate last week went along party lines, 23-17.
If that holds true for the full House, Republicans would win by a 242-190 vote. Issa said this weekend he believes some Democrats will also vote for contempt, saying he expects some votes from 31 who previously had written the Obama Administration and urged the Department of Justice to be more forthcoming.
Last week, Holder issued a statement describing the Oversight Committee’s contempt vote as "an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action" that's intended to provoke conflict between Congress and the executive branch. He called it "untrue" that the department has not been responsive to congressional demands for information.
After that vote, Boehner announced that, "while we had hoped it would not come to this," Holders' contempt report would go before the full House this week unless documents were turned over.
Republicans moved forward with the contempt case even though DOJ informed Issa that the White House had claimed executive privilege over the documents. That DOJ letter was delivered to Issa about 15 minutes before the hearing started Wednesday morning.
Attempts to work out a compromise over the documents sought by Issa and the House committee late Tuesday night fell short, with each side blaming the other. The hearing was rancorous and sharply partisan.