WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a bold accusation on Thursday about what is driving Republicans to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress: a desire to suppress Democratic voters in November.
"It is no accident, it is no coincidence, that the attorney general of the United States is the person responsible for making sure that voter suppression does not happen in our country," Pelosi said at her weekly briefing. "These very same people who are holding him in contempt are part of a nationwide scheme to suppress the vote. They're closely allied with those who are suffocating the system: unlimited special interest secret money."
The Democratic leader said it is "really important" to note the connection between the GOP push for a contempt vote and voter suppression efforts, particularly since, she said, the whole point is to distract from the fact that congressional Republicans aren't focused on substantive issues. She noted that the House is lining up a vote next week to hold the attorney general in contempt at a time when there are only nine days left to pass a bill to keep transportation projects funded and a bill to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling.
"Instead, let us tie the hands of the person who is assigned to make sure that the American people have the right to vote ... and that their vote is counted," Pelosi said. "It's all tied together."
As she was leaving, she emphasized her message again, unprovoked: "Don't forget, they're going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn voter suppression initiatives in the states. This is no accident, it is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of the Republicans."
Pelosi's office later provided materials to back up her charge. It cited cases in 2007 where Bush administration officials fired U.S. attorneys for not pursuing "bogus" voting fraud cases in which the administration wanted action. Specifically, in March 2007, presidential adviser Dan Bartlett said one reason U.S. attorneys were being fired was because of their “lax voter-fraud investigations" into cases pushed by the administration. In April 2007, Justice Department documents revealed that one U.S. attorney had brought numerous cases against Republican donors but declined to pursue allegations of Democratic voter fraud.
Pelosi's office also pointed to an exhaustive House Judiciary Committee report from November 2007 that concluded that the decisions by Bush administration officials "to fire or retain some U.S. Attorneys may have been based in part on whether or not their offices were pursuing or not pursuing public corruption or vote fraud cases based on partisan political factors, or otherwise bringing cases which could have an impact on pending elections."
These cases are "directly related to current Republican efforts to impede AG Holder from pursuing efforts to prohibit Republican efforts to subvert voting rights," says the material from Pelosi's office. "This shows an ongoing effort by Republicans to deprive people of the right to vote dating back at least to 2007."
As for tying the voter suppression charge to big GOP donors, Pelosi's office said that conservative funders have been giving large, undisclosed funds to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote voter suppression laws across the country.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked to respond to the voter suppression charge at his weekly briefing, but he declined. Instead, he pushed back on Pelosi's claim that Republicans are going after Holder as a diversion from their lack of work on pressing matters.
Republicans are "heavily engaged" in getting a deal on the transportation bill, Boehner said. As for the Holder contempt charges, he said people "deserve the truth" about what happened with the Justice Department's botched Fast and Furious operation.
"This is a very serious matter," Boehner said.
Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee that voted to hold Holder in contempt, chided Pelosi for suggesting that the Holder investigation isn't legitimate.
"This investigation began a year and a half ago after a U.S. Border Patrol Agent was murdered and guns from Operation Fast and Furious were found at the crime scene," Hill told The Huffington Post. "For Minority Leader Pelosi to dismiss this tragedy and say the investigation is really about voter suppression is offensive and wrong.”
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he didn't know about Pelosi's remarks and wouldn't say if he agreed with her voter suppression charge. But he said that politics are clearly driving the GOP push for a contempt vote.
"I cannot divine the motions behind what I think I've clearly suggested is something we believe has become a fishing expedition," Carney said during his daily briefing. "What we do believe is that Republican leaders have and Republican members of Congress have, through the actions that they've taken with regard to this matter, lived up to their announcement at the beginning of the year that one of their chief legislative and strategic priorities would be to investigate the administration and damage the president politically."
"If you don't believe me, I refer you to them," Carney added. "They said it."
This article has been updated to include a comment from a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).