As the U.S. Justice Department continues to urge a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over information about the Fast and Furious gun program, leading House Democrats today jumped into the case.
Well, sort of. Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, joined by several other Democrats in the House, asked a judge for permission to file a brief that, in part, supports the DOJ position in the litigation.
The Democratic members of the House, represented by the law firm Donahue & Goldberg, said that federal trial judges can and should—in "appropriate circumstances"—play a role in constitutional disputes between branches of the government.
But the Fast and Furious case? House Democrats today asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to dismiss the suit without prejudice. Jackson didn't immediately rule whether she'll allow the brief to become an official part of the record.
With that caveat, here's some of what the brief says. The oversight committee, according to its Democratic members, "has defaulted on its constitutional obligation to pursue, through negotiation, a resolution that accommodates the legitimate institutional interests of both branches of government before asking the court to take the momentous step of adjudicating this dispute."
The committee, the proposed brief said, "has chosen to rush toward unnecessary conflict, in the process of denying its members the opportunity to obtain relevant information available through alternative means."
DOJ lawyers earlier this week filed court papers in the case, responding to the position of the oversight committee that Jackson, the judge, should compel the department to respond to a committee subpoena.
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, led by Representative Darrell Issa (D-Calif.) are pressing for information about Fast and Furious as members explore their contention that DOJ officials obstructed the congressional probe of the failed gun trafficking program.
In Fast and Furious, federal agents allowed firearms to flow unfettered in Mexico. The authorities have linked the death of a border agent, Brian Terry, to Fast and Furious firearms. DOJ lawyers argue that the department has been more than forthcoming with the committee in its request for internal documents.
DOJ says in its latest court filing, urging Jackson to dismiss the suit, that allowing the litigation to proceed will "destabilize" the negotiation and compromise process.
"If Congress or the executive may seek judicial resolution of a dispute whenever either has determined that negotiations are inconvenient or inefficient, neither side will long endure the frustrations and compromises that are inherent in the process," DOJ said in court papers.
Jackson is scheduled on January 10 to hold a hearing on the department's motion to dismiss the suit. At a court hearing in November, DOJ lawyers and attorneys in the House said they'd meet to continue negotiation.