The United States House of Representatives voted last Wednesday to officially hold former head of the IRS, Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for what Republicans view as her failure to testify in front of a congressional committee on May 22nd, 2013 when she invoked her 5th amendment right which protects individuals from self-incrimination. The committee headed by house Republicans is investigating whether or not Lerner, the former head of the IRS, used the agency to unfairly target conservative groups who were seeking tax exempt status. The concern arouse after it was revealed that the tax agency targeted groups with the word’s ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their name.
The House vote was 231 to 187 in a nearly party line vote. Six Democrats, some of whom who are facing difficult re-election outlooks, were among those who joined the unanimous House Republicans in this vote. With the vote passing on Wednesday, the issue now moves to the District of Columbia’s attorney general’s office of Irvin B. Nathan. It is unknown if he will proceed further with any charges.
If convicted of the charges, Lerner can face between one and twelve months in jail and can face a fine of up to $100,000. With the contempt vote, the House also voted 250 to 168 to have Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. 26 Democrats joined house Republicans in this vote.
Lerner is the second Obama administration official who has been held in contempt of congress, the first was Attorney Eric Holder who was held in contempt for not handing over documents related to the fast and furious gun scandal involving guns smuggled by the United States government across the Mexican border to drug cartels. The firearms in question were later confirmed to be involved with a shooting which killed border patrol agent, Brian Terry in December of 2010. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes of Mexico was sentenced to 30 years in prison in his role for the death.
“The contempt charge has gone to the attorney general and it’s up to the attorney general Eric Holder to prosecute the case. Now will he do it? We don’t know. But the ball is in his court”, Speaker Boehner said during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” television show. Judging by Holder’s past statements on the issue, many are sceptical of action. The battle between the two parties over money in politics is likely to decided elsewhere.