WASHINGTON -- The Congressional Black Caucus will walk out of the House chamber during Thursday's vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
Caucus leaders circulated a letter to Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday night urging them to leave the House floor when the vote comes up. The letter, which was obtained by The Huffington Post, was sent to members of the Hispanic Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, the Asian Pacific American Caucus and others.
"We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation's most significant priority--creating jobs," reads the letter. "At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies."
The letter urges Democrats to stand up for Holder, who is black and who is the first U.S. attorney general in history to be charged with being in contempt of Congress. Republican leaders are moving forward with the vote because they say Holder is withholding certain documents relating to their probe into the Justice Department's botched Fast and Furious operation. Holder has provided 7,600 documents so far and said he can't provide certain others because it would violate confidentiality rules. The White House and congressional Democrats maintain that the GOP-led effort is purely political.
"Contempt power should be used sparingly, carefully and only in the most egregious situations. The Republican Leadership has articulated no legislative purpose for pursuing this course of action. For these reasons we cannot and will not participate in a vote to hold the Attorney General in contempt. We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an Attorney General who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice," reads the letter.
A Democratic aide said Congressional Black Caucus members are, for now, the only lawmakers planning to walk out. But the situation is "fluid so it can change before tomorrow morning," said the aide.