Washington • All three of Utah's House members voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on Thursday, arguing the move was necessary to hold the administration accountable.
Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop voted with their Republican colleagues to condemn Holder and were joined by Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, one of 17 members of his party to break ranks and support the measure. The House passed the contempt citation 255-67, with more than 100 Democrats boycotting the action.
"This is not about Eric Holder, but this is about the Department of Justice and justice in the United States of America," said Chaffetz who took the House floor on Thursday in an angry diatribe over the department's refusal to surrender all requested documents in an investigation of the Fast & Furious program. The DOJ has pointed out that it has turned over more than 7,600 pages to Congress.
That Justice Department operation gave U.S. agents the authority to sell guns to straw purchasers in the hope that they would be traced back to Mexican drug runners. A majority of the guns went unaccounted for and were later linked to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and more than a hundred Mexican citizens.
Chaffetz stressed the amount of time it has taken to get answers.
"Nothing has changed in over a year, but I can you this, Brian Terry['s family] doesn't have answers, you don't have answers, I don't have the answers," Chaffetz said. "I want all the facts, that's what we're asking for today, the facts, all of them."
Matheson was the first Democrat to publicly say he would vote for the contempt motion.
"Utahns expect and deserve transparency and accountability from government officials, especially when a tragedy such as the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent occurs," Matheson said in a statement. "The Terry family, the public and Congress deserve answers. Sadly, it seems that it will take holding the Attorney General in contempt to communicate that evasiveness is unacceptable. It is a vote I will support."
Matheson is part of a faction of Democrats who broke with party lines after the National Rifle Association said it would use this vote on its score card of members ratings on the Second Amendment