House Votes to Hold Former IRS Official Lois Lerner in Contempt

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from The Wall Street Journal,

House Also Approves Resolution Urging Justice Department to Appoint Special Prosecutor

The House voted Wednesday to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for declining to answer lawmakers’ questions, a move that carries political significance and could set a legal precedent.

The largely party-line vote was 231 to 187, with a handful of Democrats backing the measure.

Republicans said the contempt citation was necessary to help find the truth about what happened in the alleged IRS targeting, starting in early 2010, of tea-party groups seeking nonprofit tax status. Republicans are hoping the matter will go to court, and a judge will require Ms. Lerner to answer their questions about what occurred.

Ms. Lerner headed the division that handled the groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, and helped direct the processing of the cases.

What happens next is unclear. Federal law says that if the House or Senate votes to hold someone in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena, the matter will be referred to the local U.S. attorney, a Justice Department official. It is then the duty of the U.S. attorney to bring the matter before a grand jury. But that doesn’t guarantee an indictment. Justice officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

“The only route to the truth is through the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio). “That’s why this resolution is so important.”

The House also approved a separate resolution urging the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor.

In a written statement, Ms. Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor III, said: “Today’s vote has nothing to do with the facts or the law. Its only purpose is to keep the baseless IRS ‘conspiracy’ alive through the midterm elections.”

Democrats said GOP lawmakers were seeking to stir their conservative political base, and were running roughshod over Ms. Lerner’s rights in the process. They compared the GOP move to McCarthy-era bullying.

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