House Judiciary Committee Democrats beat back a Republican attempt Wednesday to force the Justice Department to furnish documents related to alleged White House efforts to clear Democratic Senate primaries in Pennsylvania and Colorado.
The panel voted 15-12 along party lines to adversely report a resolution sponsored by Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Subcommittee on Constitution ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). The resolution would have given Attorney General Eric Holder two weeks to turn over documents related to any guidance the department might have given White House officials about efforts to convince a candidate to withdraw. The vote effectively kills the resolution.
Democrats, who hold an eight-seat margin on the panel, cast the proposal as a naked political ploy. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) described a slew of GOP statements supporting the resolution as nothing more than “a gripe session,” adding that Republicans’ questions had “been asked and answered.”
The resolution was the latest in a series of GOP attempts to put President Barack Obama’s White House and Congressional Democrats on the defensive in an election year. Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak and former Colorado Speaker Andrew Romanoff have indicated in recent weeks that the White House tried to dangle the possibility of an administration post to dissuade them from challenging incumbent Democratic Senators in primaries.
“The president’s political affiliation as a Democrat does not give administration officials carte blanche to do whatever they want simply because it benefits the Democratic Party,” Smith said.