House Republicans announced Thursday they plan to hold a vote next week on whether to hold a former top Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about her role in a pattern of unfairly scrutinizing conservative groups.
Lois Lerner, who headed the tax exempt oversight office of the IRS, has refused to testify before a House oversight panel, despite offering a lengthy statement in her own defense during a public hearing last year.
Republicans believe Lerner is withholding information about the role Washington, D.C., officials played in the targeting, which singled out groups with names that suggested affiliation with the Tea Party.
Republicans believe Lerner waived her right to avoid self incrimination by defending before a congressional committee and they are demanding she testify.
Lerner’s lawyers tried to negotiate a deal this week that would spare Lerner a contempt vote if she talked with House GOP leaders. But GOP leaders rejected the overtures and said Lerner must provide testimony before a public hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in order to escape a contempt vote.
Lerner has not agreed to those terms and on Thursday afternoon, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, announced the contempt vote is scheduled for next week.
The vote will come in the form of a privileged resolution, Cantor said, to hold Lerner “in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with the subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.”
Barring a last minute agreement with Lerner, the GOP-led House is all but guaranteed to vote to hold her in contempt. Approval of the contempt resolution will trigger a referral to the Justice Department, which will have to investigate whether Lerner broke the law by remaining silent.
The Justice Department is headed by U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, who is no fan of the GOP oversight panel and who has also been held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents connected to the botched federal gunrunning operation known as Fast and Furious.
The Justice Department has essentially ignored the Holder contempt vote but a court is weighing a civil contempt lawsuit filed by House Republicans aimed at forcing the Justice Department to hand over the requested documents.