Updated: The Washington Times in a breaking release reports the House Oversight Committee voted Thursday to cite Lois G. Lerner for contempt of Congress, rejecting Democrats’ comparisons to McCarthy-style tactics in the 1950s and saying Congress has a right to get information about Ms. Lerner’s role in the IRS’s tea party targeting scandal.
After a tempestuous debate, the 21-12 vote sends the contempt referral to the full House, beginning what’s expected to be a long legal battle that could take years to resolve, leaving Ms. Lerner’s testimony in limbo and the cloud hanging over the IRS as all sides look ahead to November’s elections.
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The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday urged the Justice Department to take a fresh look at whether former IRS official Lois Lerner should be prosecuted, saying she broke the law multiple times.
After a rare session conducted mainly behind closed doors, the committee voted to send a criminal referral to Attorney General Eric Holder on a party-line 23-14 vote.
The letter to Holder outlining the potential charges says that Lerner recklessly exposed confidential taxpayer information, misled the inspector general investigating the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups and pushed the agency to only take a deeper look at conservative organizations.
All told, those actions are punishable by up to 11 years in prison, a House aide said this week. The Ways and Means action also kicks off a two-day span full of legal headaches for Lerner, the IRS official who first apologized for the agency’s actions last year.
Lerner’s attorney, Bill Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder, called the timing of Wednesday’s vote “odd” in a statement to reporters, and said he had not heard from the Ways and Means Committee about its referral.