Van Hollen: Republicans Focused on Political Battles Instead of Jobs, Student Loans, and Transportation
“Which is Why You See the American Public Holding this Republican Congress in Contempt in the Opinion Polls”
Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen appeared on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. to discuss House Republicans’ decision to advance efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress, as opposed to advancing legislation that would promote job growth and boost the economic recovery. Video of the interview is available here and the transcript is below.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC: I want to bring in Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland. Always good to see you, Congressman. Good morning.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Good morning.
JANSING: So, what about those critics who say that this is not about executive privilege based on principle, it’s about getting the Republicans off the message of the economy?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think that's nonsense. Nobody likes to be held in contempt, but what you have here is one of the most extreme Houses we have ever seen. As you know, never in history has a House of Representatives decided to bring a contempt citation against an Attorney General of the United States. Not even Newt Gingrich, who led one of the most partisan Houses, did that with respect to Janet Reno. So, what you’ve got here is just a runaway, extremist right-wing House and there’s nothing more to it than that.
JANSING: A lot of people have reminded the White House – the Republicans – that back in 2007, when Barack Obama was a Senator, he criticized President Bush for invoking executive privilege. Let me play that for you.
THEN-SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: There has been a tendency on the part of this Administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there’s something a little shaky that’s taking place. And I think the Administration would be best served by coming clean on this.
JANSING: The Romney campaign quickly piled-on. They said, you know, after President Obama pledged to run the most open and transparent Administration, here is another broken promise. Is there a concern – do you have concern – that it can look like the President is trying to hide something?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, certainly the Republicans are trying to make it look that way. What they are not telling the American people is that Eric Holder has now appeared before this Committee on over eight occasions. They’ve provided thousands and thousands of documents to this Committee. They have been very transparent. So, what's going on here, really, is an obvious effort of the House Republicans to try and pick a fight on this issue with the Administration. They’ve been determined to try and bring this Administration down from the beginning. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said their object all along has not been jobs and the economy, but the defeat of the President. And we have – the irony here in the House, where we can't even get a vote on the President's jobs proposal, which has been pending since September, and yet they want to vote for the first time in U.S. history to hold an Attorney General in contempt, with all the other things that are going on here. At the end of this month, the transportation bill that provides investments for transportation expires. At the end of this month, student interest rate loans will double and yet Republicans are focused on this issue, which is why you see the American public holding this Republican Congress in contempt in the opinion polls.
JANSING: You know, one of the things, when I have been talking to Republicans over the last couple of days about this, that they say to me, we can't forget that there was an ATF agent who was killed in this and whose family wants answers. And the family of that agent did release a statement, and I just want to read part of that statement for you.
"Our son lost his life protecting this nation and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an Administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious."
JANSING: How does the White House – how do you – answer that statement by the Terrys?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, first of all, the whole nation grieves for what happened to their son. But it is very important that an investigation into the death of an American citizen not turn into a political battle. We should get to the bottom of the facts. The Attorney General has been working to get to the bottom of the facts. As you get into the details of this case, the Attorney General offered to provide all the documents that related to a particular letter that is the specific subject of this contempt citation, but then they decided to ask for other documents that have nothing do, nothing to do with the death, the terrible, tragic death, of this agent.
So everybody is focused on trying to get to the bottom of that issue, which as you know, was a program that started under the Bush Administration, was continued but then stopped by the Obama Administration. Everybody has a bipartisan interest getting to the bottom of that. That wasn't the doing of one Administration or the other. It was a terrible tragedy, we should get to the bottom of it. But for the Republicans to decide to make this a political issue, and for the first time the history of the United States, bring a contempt citation against the Attorney General of the United States, when we have so many pressing issues on jobs and the economy, suggests that they are just trying to run out the clock on the economy and focus on these other issues.
JANSING: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thank you very much.
VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.