Wednesday the House of Representatives voted to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for invoking her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. For a party who claims to believe in the US Constitution, they certainly have a way of ignoring it when it comes to their electoral agenda.
The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to hold a former Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into the agency's special targeting of groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names that were seeking tax-exempt status.
On a 231 to 187 vote, the House approved a contempt citation against Lois G. Lerner, whose admission last year that the tax-enforcement agency had targeted conservative groups infuriated lawmakers in both parties, led to an overhaul of the IRS and Lerner's eventual retirement from government service.
Six Democrats -- a band of moderates and others facing difficult reelection challenges -- joined with all voting Republicans to approve the contempt charge.
Now the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The contempt charge will then be referred to a grand jury for further review, but it is unclear how the Justice Department will proceed. Politically, however, House Republicans will be able to declare victory after working swiftly in the last year to investigate the matter and hold a senior IRS official accountable for the agency's decision and her unwillingness to cooperate with a congressional investigation.
This is a convenient way of extracting a pound of flesh before Issa retires the entire investigation, since the outcome would be proof beyond all reasonable doubt that the IRS did not act improperly nor did it target only conservative groups.
Unlike other contempt of Congress votes which alleged contempt for actual acts of contempt - like refusing to testify at all or turn over documents - this vote recalled the days of Joseph McCarthy, when contempt of Congress citations were used as a cudgel to force people to testify against their friends and neighbors.
Darrell Issa didn't ever want Lerner to testify. She was far more useful as his scapegoat and escape hatch from an investigation over nothing.