This morning, the House of Representatives will make history. For the first time ever, they could hold a vote to hold a sitting United States attorney general in contempt of Congress.
They're voting against Attorney General Eric Holder, for withholding documents about the failed "Fast and Furious" program. A final attempt by Justice Department officials to negotiate with House Republicans failed on Tuesday, and now, a group of House Democrats are planning a walkout to boycott the vote.
This morning on "Starting Point," Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), explains why he's leading the charge on the Democratic walkout.
Transcript available after the jump.
OBRIEN: Tell me a little bit more about this walkout. How many folks are expecting will walkout? Is it just the Congressional Black Caucus or more?
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER, (D) MISSOURI: Well, there are a number of us who believe that it should be some group, some person, or some members who simply back away from the silliness. We don't want history to record that we participated in something that is so silly and detrimental to one human being.
There will be a number of people from the Democratic side who will do something dramatic and that in all likelihood would be walking out of the chamber.
O'BRIEN: Will the leadership take part in that walkout?
CLEAVER: Well, I doubt seriously if that's going to happen, because they're going to be needed on the floor. And what we're trying to do is to simply say to the American public, we don't want to participate in that. This whole deal stinks. And we don't want to be involved in this activity (ph).
O'BRIEN: What makes you say the deal stinks? I know you wrote a letter really telling everybody that you opposed the partisan attack, refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or an attorney general who's done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people.
That's a letter that you sent out warning of this walkout. So, when you say it stinks, what stinks about - what's at work here, do you think?
CLEAVER: Well, first of all, Brian Terry's parents and family members deserve to know what happened to their son. This does nothing about revealing what happened to their son. And number two, this is a situation where Democrats were never able to bring to the committee any witnesses. Not even the AFT head who was involved in authorizing this gone bad gun toting project.
And we never had an opportunity either to have any kind of bipartisan dialogue, and the chairman of the committee just yesterday testifying before the rules committee admitted that, no, this is not a bipartisan move. And I think that with this pathological partisanship that we're now practicing in Washington, the public has already grown tired of it.
And instead of us trying to back away and figuring out how we can get 14 million people who are unemployed back to work, we're outdoing something that has absolutely no value to the republic.
O'BRIEN: What do you think the walkout will accomplish? Walkouts, as you well know, have been done before. Back in 2008, Alberto Gonzalez (ph) was the attorney general at that point and the contempt hearing as well was at issue. Republicans walked out. And in the end, it went to federal court, and they negotiated, and they got the documents. What does a walkout accomplish?
CLEAVER: Well, the walkout is not going to accomplish anything that will alter history. But it will show that some of us just don't want to observe an injustice taking place. Eric Holder's a good and decent man and shouldn't get caught up in this presidential political season. Look, we're in politics. I'm in politics. I understand.
If Republicans want to go after the president, they have all the rights they should do so with. They need to criticize him on all of the policies with which they disagree. They ought to push back on things that they believe to be alien to what the American public needs, but to attack a man and criminalize him, keep in mind this is not just something that's going to take place in the House.
There is a criminal vote that will be sent to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C. So, here's a man who gives of himself to the public and ends up facing a criminal prosecution on something that he had no involvement with. This started under President George Bush, and there are people out there who can bring that kind of testimony to the front.
But, the chair of the committee will not allow anyone to come and testify and provide very important information, because it would change the entire scenario that was designed for this awful day that we're about to face.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Emanuel Cleaver is the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Nice to see you sir as always. Thanks for talking with us. Appreciate it.