Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The House voted Wednesday to hold former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to testify about the IRS employees’ improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status.
A total 231 mostly Republican congressmen voted to hold Lerner in contempt against 187 who voted no. A 250-168 vote also referred the contempt charges to a U.S. attorney, who will decide whether or not to prosecute her in federal court.
The contempt vote came more than 11 months after Republicans tried to get Lerner’s testimony over the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Lerner, who retired in September, twice invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before the House Oversight Committee.
Republicans say she waived those rights by claiming her innocence in an opening statement and by acknowledging at an American Bar Association conference on May 10, 2013 that the agency had engaged in inappropriate scrutiny and blamed employees in a Cincinnati office for it. She also told the conference that the problem had been fixed.
A federal court will decide if whether or not she waived her right against self-incrimination last year. If found in contempt, she faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
William W. Taylor III, Lerner’s lawyer, denied she committed contempt of Congress and accused the GOP of prolonging the baseless IRS conspiracy issue up to the mid-term elections.
“She did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights by proclaiming her innocence,” Taylor III said, according to Washington Times. “We provided our legal analysis to the Committee and the House, and we received no response. It is unfortunate that the majority party in the House has put politics before a citizen’s constitutional rights.”