House panel rejects Panther resolution
The Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday rejected by a 15-14 vote a resolution of inquiry that would have forced the Justice Department to tell Congress why it dismissed a civil complaint against members of the New Black Panther Party who disrupted a Philadelphia polling place in the November 2008 election.
The party-line vote had been sought by Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, who, along with Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said they have been unable to get information from the department on the complaint's dismissal.
"I am deeply disappointed that the Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote. There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice," Mr. Wolf said.
"Where is the 'unprecedented transparency' that this administration promised? Where is the honesty and openness that the majority party pledged? The American people deserve better," he said.
The 15 Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, sent the resolution to the House floor with an adverse recommendation, voting it "unfavorably" out of committee. They described the Philadelphia polling disruption as an "isolated incident" that received sufficient punishment when the New Black Panther Party member who carried a nightstick was barred from carrying weapons at polling places in the future.
Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican, described the dismissal of the complaint as "a denial of justice" and Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, said the resolution was an attempt to hold the Justice Department accountable to Congress.
Mr. Wolf said that after ignoring seven letters over seven months seeking information on the case and failing to comply with subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he decided to seek the resolution. He said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. continues to "thwart all efforts to compel an explanation for the dismissal."