There was a reasonable, liberal rationale for Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote in favor of the Republican-led resolution to cite Attorney General Eric Holder as in contempt of Congress. Eric Holder is attempting to thwart the oversight powers of Congress by refusing to turn over documents requested by Congress. Barack Obama has followed in the footsteps of George W. Bush by asserting the constitutionally-unjustified power of Executive Privilege to ignore oversight by Congress. These are the kinds of seizures of power that Democrats opposed, when they were committed by George W. Bush.
On the other hand, there was the opportunity for political advantage for some Democrats voting in favor of holding Eric Holder in contempt. Democrats in right-leaning districts could use the vote as an opportunity to distance themselves from the Obama Administration.
Seventeen House Democrats voted in favor of the contempt citation of Eric Holder today. Were they holding true to solid liberal ideology, defying their own political party to do so, or were they simply Blue Dogs, helping the Republican agenda as they usually do?
Let’s look at the data, using our Legislative scorecard for the current session of the House of Representatives. The following is a scatterplot of the 17 Democrats who voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Each point represents one of the Democrats voting for the contempt measure.
In this chart, Democrats who vote for right wing legislation more often than they vote for left wing legislation are in the red half. Democrats who vote more for left wing legislation than for right wing legislation are in the blue half. As can be seen, most of the House Democrats who voted for the Eric Holder contempt citation are in the red half (11 out of the 17). Even those pro-contempt Democrats who are in the blue half of the chart are not strongly so. None of the more liberal members of the U.S. House voted in favor of contempt today. It seems that political opportunism, not liberal ideology, was the motivation for the anti-Holder Democratic vote. All of these 17 Democrats are on the right wing of the Democratic Party.
The names of the pro-contempt Democrats: Jason Altmire, John Barrow, Dan Boren, Leonard Boswell, Ben Chandler, Mark Critz, Joe Donnelly, Kathy Hochul, Ron Kind, Larry Kissell, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Bill Owens, Collin Peterson, Nick Joe Rahall, Mike Ross, Tim Walz.