In a 21-12 vote Thursday morning, the House Oversight Committee decided to charge the former head of the IRS’ tax-exempt division with contempt of Congress.

Lois Lerner, who has been at the center of an ongoing scandal for admittedly subjecting conservative groups to greater scrutiny, has repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination during subsequent testimonies. Despite persistent warnings from committee chairman Darrell Issa that her refusal could land her in contempt, Lerner remained silent.

“This is not something that I take lightly,” he said of the vote. “We cannot tell the American people we have done all we can do to get to the truth in this investigation if we give a pass to a critical witness like Ms. Lerner.”

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Lerner has been accused of targeting conservative – specifically Tea Party-affiliated – groups ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Republicans are anxious to hear her side of the story in an effort to further their investigation into who was involved in the apparent conspiracy.

Despite Democrat supporters claiming her invocation of the Fifth Amendment was valid, including Rep. Stephen Lynch’s assertion that the contempt charge will be “laughed out of court,” Republicans contend she waived that protection when she initially proclaimed she was innocent of any wrongdoing.

“Lois Lerner did not remain silent,” asserted Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis.

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The issue of contempt will now be advanced to the full House for a vote, which could be held later this month. If that charge passes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. would decide whether a grand jury should be assembled to formalize charges.

As this issue remains ongoing, Lerner faces charges on another front, as well. The House Ways and Means Committee this week presented a triad of charges related to the scandal to Attorney General Eric Holder for consideration.

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Photo Credit: Facebook/Lois Lerner