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POLITICS: PennAve

House panel to vote on contempt charge for IRS official Lois Lerner next week

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Tea Party,IRS,PennAve,Lois Lerner

A Republican-led House panel will decide next week whether a former top IRS official should be held in contempt of Congress.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a vote April 10 to decide whether to find Lois Lerner in contempt.

Lerner served as the D.C.-based IRS official who some lawmakers believe played a key roll in the practice of targeting certain conservative and Tea Party groups who were seeking tax-exempt status.

Lerner has twice refused to answer questions before GOP-led congressional committees, invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But Republicans believe she waived that right by providing a lengthy statement at a hearing last year.

"Documents and testimony point to Lois Lerner as a senior IRS official responsible for conduct that deprived Americans of their rights to free speech and equal protection under our laws," committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said.

"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 continued. "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."

Democrats oppose the GOP’s pursuit of Lerner and are all but guaranteed to vote against the contempt charge.

Democrats say Issa erred in the process by not properly notifying Lerner of the contempt charge, and they have enlisted legal experts who support their view.

“The chairman apparently decided to disregard the opinions of 25 independent legal experts, including two former House counsels and three former clerks to Supreme Court justices, who believe he botched this contempt proceeding,” a Democratic aide on the panel told the Washington Examiner.

“As with his conduct of this entire investigation, this contempt vote appears geared more towards generating press for the chairman rather than working responsibly with committee members to seek facts, particularly when he leaked news of his contempt vote to press outlets before even bothering to tell his own committee members,” the aide added.

The panel is stacked with a GOP majority, which means the contempt charge is likely to pass.

From there, House leaders will have to decide whether to put it on the floor for a vote, as they did with Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012. If Congress finds Lerner in contempt, the matter is handed over to the Department of Justice.

Holder was found in contempt for failing to turn over documents related to the failed gunrunning operation known as Fast and Furious. The matter is now under review by a federal judge.

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