U.S. House of Representatives

House Republicans on Wednesday voted to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at a pair of committee hearings.

By Josh Hicks and Ed O’Keefe,
May 8, 2014

The House voted Wednesday to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois G. Lerner in contempt of Congress and request a special prosecutor to investigate the agency’s targeting of advocacy groups during the past two election cycles.

Lerner, who headed an IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status, invoked her Fifth Amendment right during two hearings, frustrating Republicans and Democrats who want answers.

The 231-187 contempt vote came three days shy of the date when Lerner apologized at a legal conference last year for actions the IRS took against organizations with “tea party” and “patriot” in their names. Her comments marked the first time the agency officially acknowledged using inappropriate screening techniques toward conservative groups.

Days after the event, an inspector general released a report saying the IRS inappropriately targeted tax-exemption applicants for extra scrutiny based on their names and policy positions.

The House voted 250-168 in favor of the measure calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the matter. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who pushed for the move last week, has said the IRS’s actions are “too serious a matter to leave to the discretion of partisan political appointees.”

The contempt resolution asks the Justice Department to seek criminal prosecution against Lerner.

Now the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia can consider referring the matter to a grand jury for further review. It is unclear how the Justice Department will proceed.

Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor, has repeatedly denied that his client did anything wrong. “Today’s vote has nothing to do with the facts or the law,” he said in a statement. “Its only purpose is to keep the baseless IRS ‘conspiracy’ alive through the midterm elections.”

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