The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted on Thursday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. The committee’s approval paves the way for a vote in the full House of Representatives.
Lerner is accused of leading an effort to target the tax status of conservative organizations, while giving liberal organizations a pass. Lerner previously pled the Fifth Amendment when questioned by the committee on May 22, 2013. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination.
But since Lerner had previously professed her innocence in a statement, a little over one month later the committee voted that she had waived her right to plead the Fifth. On March 5, 2014, Lerner was again called before the committee, and again refused to answer questions.
On Wednesday, committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa accused Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings of colluding with Lerner in targeting True the Vote — a conservative organization that fights voter fraud. Cummings has been a vocal critic of Issa’s investigation, and voted along with every Democrat on the committee to not hold Lerner in contempt.
“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials — which you did not disclose to majority members or staff — indicates otherwise,” reads a letter Issa and five subcommittee chairmen sent to Cummings.
“Today, the oversight committee upheld its obligation to pursue the truth about the IRS targeting of Americans because of their political beliefs,” Issa, said in a Thursday statement. “Our investigation has found that former IRS Exempt Organizations division Director Lois Lerner played a central role in the targeting scandal and then failed to meet her legal obligations to answer questions after she waived her right not to testify. In demanding answers and holding a powerful government official accountable for her failure to meet her legal obligations, this committee did its job. If the House takes up and passes the resolution, the matter will be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, which statute requires he take to a grand jury.”