WASHINGTON - House Republicans voted Wednesday to hold a former Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at a pair of committee hearings about her role in the agency's tea party controversy.
The vote to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress was 231 to 187, with all Republicans voting in favor and all but a few Democrats voting against.
The House also passed a nonbinding resolution, 250 to 168, calling on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS, with all Republicans voting in favor.
'Who's been fired?'
Lois Lerner directed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. A year ago this week, Lerner publicly disclosed that agents had improperly singled out tea-party applications for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny.
Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions at a pair of hearings by the House Oversight Committee. Republicans say she waived her constitutional right by making an opening statement in which she proclaimed her innocence.
An inspector general's report blamed poor management but found no evidence of political conspiracy. Many Republicans believe otherwise.
"Who's been fired over the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS? No one that I'm aware of," said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio).
Democrats: GOP ploy
House Democrats said Wednesday's voting was little more than an ploy to fire up the GOP base.
"Instead of passing bipartisan legislation to create more jobs, reform immigration, raise the minimum wage or address any number of issues that affect our constituents every single day, House Republicans are spending this entire week trying to manufacture scandals for political purposes," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
The matter now goes to Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Federal law says Machen has a "duty" to bring the matter before a grand jury. But a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said it was unclear whether the duty is mandatory.