We Canadians have gotten our fill of Contempt of Parliament charges recently and to those of us outside of Ottawa these have little meaning, and little consequences, and have become a political weapon. Unlike contempt of court where you do go to jail, and can face a criminal sentence, contempt of parliament, has little meaning outside of Parliament.
Now the United States House of Representatives (Congress) has followed suit with a Contempt of Congress charge laid against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. And the partisan nature is evident pushed through by Republicans boycotted by Democrats. The vote was 255-67, with more than 100 Democrats boycotting. What was it all about, just like Contempt of Parliament charges, most are not sure.
The Republicans charged the U.S. Attorney General with failing to provide information relating to a gun operation and stonewalling the investigation of “Operation Fast and Furious,” in which guns purchased in the United States were taken to Mexico. A separate vote on civil contempt passed 258-95. It will allow the House to go to court in an effort to force Holder to turn over the documents. In past cases, courts have been reluctant to settle disputes between the legislative and executive branches. The National Rifle Association had lobbied hard for the contempt charges. And unfortunately given the American racial divide, since the Attorney General is black, many black lawmakers walked out and boycotted the vote too, as being to partisan.
Does it mean anything really, beyond political theatre, probably not. Most federal prosecuters won’t touch it, and the courts don’t want anything to do with it. After all it is a political fight that in the end only damages Congress, politicians, the parties, and sadly American’s belief in their justice system.
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