Congressman insinuates U.S. attorney general should be in jail
AUSTIN — Members of Congress had harsh words for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday, including U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold who suggested that the attorney general’s conduct in an average person could merit jail time.
Amid the heated comments of the wide-ranging House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Holder was the only witness.
Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, said Holder shouldn’t be present because he had been held in contempt of Congress, and he said an American citizen would be in jail under similar circumstances.
“I don’t think Mr. Holder should be here,” Farenthold said. “He’s in contempt of this body. I’ve called for his resignation, I’ve sponsored articles of impeachment, and this week I’m going to be introducing legislation that would prevent federal employees who are held in contempt of Congress or who fail to fully comply with a Congressional subpoena from being paid their taxpayer-funded salary. I’m going to try and get that [the legislation] included with the appropriations bills that’ll be going through.
“I’m committed to maintaining the constitutional balance of power and the authority this branch — this legislative branch — has, and I just don’t think it’s appropriate [that] Mr. Holder be here. If an American citizen had not complied with one of the Justice Department subpoenas, they would be in jail — not sitting here testifying.”
The office of the U.S. Attorney General did not respond to a request for comment on Farenthold’s remarks.
In response to a question about what he hopes his comments would accomplish, Farenthold said strengthened his insinuation that Holder should be in jail.
“Holder should be treated no differently than anyone else,” he said in a written statement. “Just like anyone else, he should be held accountable for his failure to do his job.”
The House voted to put Holder in contempt of Congress for not providing documents related to the Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning program.
Holder also had a heated exchange with East Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert who suggested Holder didn’t care much about being held in contempt.
“You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?” Holder said “You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me. I think that it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust, but never think that that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
Holder also said “Good luck with your asparagus” as a final shot, referring to a word slip up Gohmert had made last year in which he spoke of Holder casting “aspersion on my asparagus.”
Political science Assistant Professor David Smith with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi said that no House rules of decorum are violated so long as a member doesn’t directly call a member of the executive office a hypocrite, a liar, or intellectually dishonest.
“Having watched the clip, it was interesting,” Smith said. “There was no look of passion or invigoration on the congressman’s face. … but I think the words were pretty poignant.”
Even so, the tensions between the Republican controlled House and the Democratic executive branch have brought the parties close to the line.
“I would say they’re pushing the boundaries,” Smith said. “While Congressman Farenthold did not break the rule of decorum, you’re getting pretty close.”
Reprinted with permission from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.