After repeatedly invoking her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, former IRS official Lois Lerner will be the subject of a contempt of Congress vote next week. Lerner, who headed the tax-exempt division of the IRS during its targeting of conservative groups, has been tight-lipped regarding the scandal and her role in it.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will make its determination next Thursday. The vote is expected to pass in the committee and, assuming it does, the matter will then be put before a vote in the House of Representatives.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa explained why it is so important to make sure Lerner faces justice.
“Americans expect accountability and want Congress to do all it can to gather relevant evidence about what occurred and who was responsible so that this never happens again,” he said. “Ms. Lerner’s involvement in wrongdoing and refusal to meet her legal obligations has left the Committee with no alternative but to consider a contempt finding.”
Though a jail sentence is not always part of such a finding, federal law provides for incarceration of up to one year in addition to a fine of up to $100,000.
Issa has previously explained that, without this testimony, his investigation into the IRS scandal will remain incomplete. For this reason, he announced his intention to move forward with the contempt vote after he could not reach an agreement with Lerner’s attorney.
Republicans in the House largely support the move, noting she was warned repeatedly of the consequences of her actions.
A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner confirmed he “has always said that Ms. Lerner would be held in contempt unless she testified honestly and truthfully.”
The ongoing saga revolving around Lerner continues, though the conservative groups targeted by her department have received few answers as a result. She could be compelled to testify if the contempt vote passes — which is all the committee has been asking for from the beginning of its investigation.
At this point, however, many Americans believe her continued obstruction deserves a criminal penalty to boot.
–B. Christopher Agee
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