By Pete Kasperowicz
Republicans have not rushed to judgment by planning a vote next week on a resolution holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, according to Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), a former judge with 20 years on the bench in Texas.
"My opinion is the Republicans have waited long enough, have given the administration, Eric Holder, every opportunity to comply with a lawful request," Poe told The Hill on Friday. "And eventually, there has to be a day of reckoning.
"It has been dilatory, and it should have been," Poe added of the long process Republicans have used to try to wrestle information out of Holder's office on the Fast and Furious gun-walking program. "But now it's time for judgment day."
Poe said that in his experience as a judge, contempt-of-court findings are much more immediate.
"Judges rarely use contempt," he said. "But when they do, the process moves faster than a year. Sometimes it's immediate. The court holds somebody in contempt and then there are consequences. They're taken away, so to speak."
Poe and other Republicans have hounded Holder for more than a year to release documents revealing details about the program, and said significant oversight is needed given that some of the guns the government let out of its sight might have been used to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The Obama administration this week invoked executive privilege over the documents sought by Republicans, which prompted Republicans to plan a floor vote next week on whether to hold Holder in contempt.
Because Republicans have focused so intently on the gun-walking program and the events leading up to Terry's death, Poe said comments this week from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) left him mystified. Pelosi charged that Republicans are pursuing the contempt resolution to weaken Holder's efforts to fight voter suppression in the states.
"It's hard to know what she believes about this," he said of Pelosi. "Certainly, she doesn't think this is the purpose of the whole Fast and Furious contempt proceedings.
"But if she does think that, she's Ö I can't imagine where she came up with that excuse or justification. I don't know where she would come up with that idea. Does it make any sense?
"This is about suppression of evidence; it has nothing to do with people voting at the polls."
Poe also likened Holder's request to negotiate with Republicans at the last minute this week to the courthouse-step plea of someone who realizes he might lose the case. At the same time, Poe said, the contempt vote is not the endgame, but rather a tool to help members get the information they've been seeking.
"There will not be excessive celebration in the end zone," he said of the possible vote next week. "The goal Ö is not to hold Eric Holder in contempt. The goal is to get the information."