House Republicans on Wednesday voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for repeatedly refusing to answer questions about her alleged involvement in targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The vote was 231 to 187, with all Republicans voting in favor of the measure and all but a few Democrats voting against it.
The scandal involved groups applying for 501(c)(4) status in the period 2010-2012. Organizations with the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names faced more questions and bureaucratic delays, although some progressive groups also encountered bureaucratic hassles, according to an inspector general’s report that came out last year.
Republicans say the administration was behind the illegal singling out the groups, but House Democrats have labeled the move against Lerner an election-year ploy to motivate the GOP base.
In testimony before congressional hearings, as recently as March, Lerner has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on the matter.
Lerner directed the Internal Revenue Service division that processes applications for tax-exempt status of political groups.
The IRS first came under fire in May of last year when Lerner apologized to conservative organizations that had been singled out for extra scrutiny. Many of those groups had complained about delays in their applications for tax-exempt status.
As NPR’s Frank James wrote when Lerner first appeared before a House hearing, she’d already made it known through her lawyer that she would invoke the Fifth.
In April, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to send to the Justice Department a criminal referral on Lerner, who retired in the wake of the scandal.