The House has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to hand over certain documents related to a gun-tracking operation lawmakers are investigating.
President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege to prevent Executive Branch documents from being disclosed in the Houses probe of Operation Fast and Furious.
Agents in the operation purposefully did not intercept more than 2,000 illegally bought weapons in Arizona, letting them pass into Mexico as a way of tracking weapons to arms traffickers. The tactic of letting the guns walk backfired: 1,400 of the guns have not been recovered and two of them were found at the scene of the killing of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
Congress is seeking answers in the case. Mr. Terrys family is seeking answers.
From the beginning, the administration should have released all the relevant documents to the House panel conducting the investigation. Yet the Justice Department initially denied that gun-walking was involved in the case.
The issue has become politicized. More than 100 Democrats boycotted the vote Thursday to hold Mr. Holder in contempt of Congress, which passed 255-67. Yet 17 Democrats voted with the Republican majority, including Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, who said he believes we need more openness in this process.
Another vote on civil contempt passed 258-95, which would let Congress ask a court to force Mr. Holder to release the documents.
Mr. Holder and many Democrats argue that the Republican-led actions are politically motivated and go too far.
But why does the administration still withhold certain documents rather than submit them to the House oversight committee in the name of transparency?
That could have been done long ago, moving this episode to completion. The stonewalling is curious and bothersome.