Attorney General Eric Holder Under Fire From House GOP

on May 04 2012 4:20 PM

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has become the target of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

Holder is facing election-year heat from two prominent GOP officials -- Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the head of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who runs Oversight and Government Reform.

Smith earlier in the week issued a report criticizing Holder for putting the Obama administration's partisan agenda ahead of [the Justice Department's] constitutional duties.

The 17-page report chiefly focuses on the attorney general's immigration law enforcement priorities, his work combating a rash of state voter ID laws, and refusal to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act.

Then, on Thursday, Issa pushed a draft resolution of contempt of Congress for allegedly blocking lawmakers' efforts to probe the failed Fast and Furious undercover gun-walking operation in Mexico, such as failing to fully comply with a subpoena. Smith's report also accuses the Justice Department of avoiding responsibility for an operation to walk and track illegal firearms in Mexico.

The partisan barrage against Holder comes as the department steps up its efforts to beat back a spate of Republican state laws that require voters to show identification at the polls and institute local immigration enforcement.

On voter ID laws, Holder has vowed to probe any that disproportionately affect minority voters. Already, the Justice Department has blocked laws in Texas and South Carolina, two states that must clear election changes under the Voting Rights Act.

Smith of Texas said these are high-profile examples of how the Justice Department has ignored the Constitution to impose the Administration's partisan agenda on the American people.

Holder has also made an effort to stop states from enacting their own immigration laws, in the wake of Arizona instituting its own enforcement regime. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though the Justice Department has challenged Arizona's law as an unconstitutional encroachment on the federal government's territory, Smith sees Holder pushing the Obama administration's anti-enforcement immigration agenda. Smith suggested the department go after sanctuary cities like New York and states that extend college tuition breaks to undocumented immigrants.

A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately return request for comment on Smith's report.

The department, meanwhile, is pushing back against Issa's efforts to build support for a contempt resolution, saying there is a disagreement about the scope of the documents being sought by the committee.

[The committee's] decision to issue a draft contempt citation appears to express a preference for confrontation over resolution, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole wrote Thursday.

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