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Are Republican Contempt Allegations Payback For Eric Holder’s Defense of Voting Rights?
You know that bridge that is always metaphorically for sale to anyone who exhibits unwarranted gullibility? It is time to dust it off and offer it to anyone who does not see a link between Eric Holder’s aggressive persecution of voting abuses in Florida and what has happened to the Attorney General in the halls of Congress this week.
Since the elections in November 2011, over half of the states have enacted various laws covering elections including changes to the identification needed to vote, revamping of registration rules, and tightening of early voting times. There is evidence that many of these rules have been passed in an attempt to suppress voting by minorities and the young, groups that typically tend to vote for Democratic Party candidates.
Over the past few months the Justice Department has looked into these laws in several states and has weighed in on redistricting efforts in others. In December Holder said of the various voter-related laws, “If a state passes a new voting law and meets its burden of showing that the law is not discriminatory, we will follow the law and approve the change. And where a state can’t meet this burden, we will object as part of our obligation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
The issue has now come to a head in Florida which has enacted some of the most restrictive new laws and where Governor Rick Scott recently issued a list of over 200,000 voters, 87 percent of which are Black or Hispanic and has demanded that local voting officials require they provide proof of their right to vote. Sixty-two of these local officials have refused to cooperate and the Justice Department filed suit this evening over the issue. Scott has, in turn, said he will sue the Department of Homeland Security over access to a list which allegedly will allow Florida to improve the quality of its voter purge list.
Today the wrath of both the House and the Senate was unleashed against Holder on two issues completely unrelated to each other and ostensibly only tangentially related to voting rights in the U.S. In the House, one of its most reprehensible members, Darrell Issa, is threatening Holder with charges of contempt of Congress for what Issa claims is perjury on the part of Holder over the so-called “Fast and Furious” gun walking program which was designed (under Bush we might add) to track guns into Mexico. This issue is so convoluted I will not attempt to summarize it but will direct readers to this The Hills article, one of the most evenhanded discussions I have found. While Issa has been pursuing Holder over this issue for months, members of the party leadership have kept their distance until the last few days and then began to pile on. With Boehner now behind it, the contempt vote will probably pass.
At the same time, several leaks of National Security information have prompted Holder to order an investigation and appoint several Department of Justice attorneys to administer it. Today, in a Senate Hearing Texas Senator John Cronyn launched the most vicious attack I have ever heard on a sitting cabinet member, accusing him of, among other things, perjury. He finished by demanding that Holder resign and that the President appoint a replacement who was “honest” and capable of fulfilling the public trust. While Cronyn’s diatribe was ostensibly triggered by Holder’s refusal to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leaks, he referenced, among other accusations, what he called Holders attempts to stop state efforts to eliminate voter fraud.
These actions by the Republican members of Congress, at least one of whom is in a leadership position, can be designed for no purpose other than to undermine the attorney general at a minimum and, at a maximum, stop his efforts to uphold voting rights. If the Republicans are able to accomplish the latter, it will be virtually impossible for the Department of Justice working under an acting attorney general to stop what is going on in the states in time to ensure a legitimate election in November.