U.S. House Panel to Vote as Soon as April 10 on Contempt

A U.S. House committee will vote as soon as April 10 to hold a former Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress.

Lois Lerner, who retired from the tax agency last year, was in charge of the office that gave extra scrutiny to some small-government groups seeking nonprofit status. She has invoked her constitutional right against self-incrimination during both of her appearances before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“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,” Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and the committee’s chairman, said in a statement today.

Issa and other Republicans say Lerner waived her constitutional rights by making a statement last May that she had done nothing wrong.

If the full House of Representatives votes to hold Lerner in contempt, the case would be referred to federal prosecutors.

Lerner retired from the IRS last year after being suspended as the director of exempt organizations when her office’s actions became public.

IRS employees acknowledged selecting some small-government groups for scrutiny based solely on their names, which has led to a turnover of the tax agency’s leadership and multiple congressional investigations.

Democrats say Issa has botched the contempt process.

“This contempt vote appears geared more towards generating press for the chairman rather than working responsibly with committee members to seek facts,” said Jennifer Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat.

Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor, didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

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