U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell voted with the Republican-led House of Representatives to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress.
Thursday’s vote was the first time in American history that Congress has imposed that sanction on a sitting member of a president’s cabinet.
Holder was held in contempt for failing to disclose internal Justice Department documents in response to a subpoena.
The vote was 255-67, with 17 Democrats voting with Republicans in favor of the contempt vote. Two Republicans — Reps. Scott Rigell of Virginia and Steven LaTourette of Ohio — joined other Democrats in voting no.
Kissell, a Democrat seeking a third term to represents District 8, could not be reached for comment.
Kissell was one of 31 Democrats who wrote to President Barack Obama earlier this month asking him to direct Holder and the Department of Justice to “promptly provide complete answers to all congressional inquiries” about Fast and Furious. Holder and the DOJ have not fulfilled that request.
Kissell’s letter said the “tactics” used in Operation Fast and Furious “are extremely troubling.”
“Our concerns were heightened with news that one of the firearms sold may have been used in the murder of a Border Patrol agent,” the Democrats wrote. “These allegations call into question the judgment of the agents involved. It is equally troubling that the Department of Justice has delayed action and withheld information from congressional inquiries.
President Obama has invoked executive privilege to block a subpoena.
The administration and other Democrats have dismissed the effort as an election-year witch hunt. They said previously disclosed documents and testimony had established that Operation Fast and Furious was the work of Arizona-based law enforcement officials who were frustrated by the difficulty of bringing low-level gun cases, and they contended that Republicans were seeking to embarrass Holder.
About 100 lawmakers, led by the Congressional Black Caucus walked out of the chamber Thursday to protest the action against Holder, who is the nation’s first black attorney general. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California joined the boycott, saying Republicans had gone “over the edge” in their partisanship.
“These contempt charges aren’t about politics,” Rep. Rich Nugent, Republican of Florida, told reporters. “They aren’t about Attorney General Holder or President Obama or anything else but this: A man died serving his country and we have a right to know what the federal government’s hand was in that. It’s clear this country somehow played a role in his death. We need to root it out, find the cause, and make sure this never, ever happens again.”