The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted today to hold Lois Lerner, former IRS exempt organizations division head, in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer the Committee’s questions regarding her involvement in the 501(c)(4) scandal. The news is certainly no surprise after the damning report the Committee released last month about Lerner.
It also won’t come as a shock that the votes came down along party lines. Democrats maintain Lerner had the right to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. Republicans counter that Lerner waived her right to plead the Fifth when she appeared before the Committee and proclaimed her innocence.
Speaker John Boehner said the House will ratify the contempt action. If approved by the House, the contempt citation will still need to be prosecuted by the Justice Department. Following the Committee vote, Lerner’s attorney said “there is not a court in this country” that would uphold the contempt citation.
If the Justice Department doesn’t come through, two other highly unlikely options remain. First, Chairman of the Committee, Darrell Issa (R-Ca), who has clearly not been Lerner’s biggest fan, will solve this whole contempt issue himself. He has said that Lerner can still avoid the contempt charges by agreeing to testify, offering: “If Ms. Lerner wants to proffer, my inbox is open every day.” Second, Congress can enlist its Sergeant at Arms to arrest Lerner and bring her to the House floor for a trial, a power Congress hasn’t used since 1934.
Do you think either option is likely? Do you have a better idea?