Nearly a dozen Republicans have joined forces to introduce articles of impeachment against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, upping the ante on long-running attacks against the cabinet member.
“This was not a decision that I made lightly. Since the House voted in 2012 to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, the pattern of disregard for the rule of law and refusal to be forthright has only continued,” Texas Rep. Pete Olson, who drafted the articles, told Reuters on Wednesday.
Olson is joined by 10 co-sponsors, including high-profile tea party Republicans Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert, in drafting four articles of impeachment against Holder. The lawmakers charge that the Justice Department chief lied to Congress and should be removed from President Obama’s cabinet.
The resolution against Holder, who has been attorney general since 2009, takes issue with his role in the botched gun-running Fast and Furious operation. Conservatives last year jumped on the operation to fuel rallying cries against the Obama administration, with focus pointed toward Holder’s refusal to hand over subponaed documents on the program. The House voted to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress in 2012 over that same move, prompting Nancy Pelosi and members of the Congressional Black Caucus to storm out in protest.
The articles also take issue with Holder’s refusal to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, sentencing requirements for drug related crimes, and his decision not to prosecute in the IRS targeting controversy that has largely fizzled out of the spotlight, according to various reports.
House Speaker John Boehner’s office has not yet commented on the impeachment effort, according to Politico, and Bob Goodlatte, who leads the House Judiciary Committee which would be responsible for conducting impeachment hearings, refused to endorse or reject the idea outright. However, he released a statement blasting Holder’s “a lack of leadership and a politicization of the Justice Department.”
“The only way to restore credibility at the Department of Justice is through an improvement in the quality of leadership,” the statement read. “President Obama should make a change in the leadership of the Department of Justice to restore the confidence of the American people in our nation’s top law enforcement agency.”
Texas Republicans make up nearly half of all co-sponsors, including Blake Farenthold and Bill Flores, both of whom have discussed impeaching President Obama in recent months. Farenthold told supporters at a town hall event in August that he thought the House had the votes to impeach Obama. Flores echoed those comments in a similar event the following month, telling supporters that he thought the president had violated the Constitution.
Co-sponsor Ted Yoho spilled the beans about this effort last week, but Olson gave a hint to his intentions in August, when he released a statement calling for Holder’s impeachment, pointing to many of the issues he’s taking on this week.
Democrat Adam Schiff blasted the impeachment push shortly after it was announced, accusing his colleagues of being “nakedly political” in their efforts.
“I didn’t think that the political attacks against Eric Holder by House Republicans could get any more irresponsible, but they did today when some GOP members proposed the most fundamental abuse of the impeachment power,” he said in a statement. “The constitution specifically reserves impeachment for treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. Yet the articles introduced against the Attorney General are nakedly political, representing a laundry list of debunked conspiracy theories directed at the attorney general and the administration.”
“It is the height of irresponsibility to use the Congress’s power to impeach office holders – a power that has been used very rarely and judiciously – to settle political scores,” he added. “The House Republican Leadership should disavow this misguided effort immediately; it is far more damaging to Congress and its impeachment authority than to anyone in the Administration.”
Democrats discussed impeachment of an attorney general during the Bush administration, but only went so far as to introduce a bill to investigate whether or not Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might be guilty of the high crimes and misdemeanors necessary for impeachment. Gonzales resigned before that bill was able to gain any traction.
If the bill were to make its way through the House, Holder would become the first member of a cabinet to be impeached since in more than a century.