The woman at the center of the IRS-Tea-Party-Targeting debacle is back in the limelight once again as the House Ways and Means Committee voted 23-14 to formally ask the Justice Department to investigate the ex-IRS official. As Fox notes, this appears to be an escalation by the Republicans to confront Lerner over her role in the agency's controversial practice of singling out conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny. On another front, a separate committee will vote Thursday on whether to hold her in contempt of Congress for twice refusing to testify on the scandal. Democrats called the move "unprecedented." The question, of course, is just how more 'da fifs' can she plead.
As Fox reports, the rare session on Wednesday to consider a criminal referral produced some partisan fireworks, as Democrats called the move against Lerner "unprecedented."
Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., initially tried to keep the deliberations open to the public and press, triggering a dispute with the chairman as he tried to raise a "point of order."
Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., then told Levin to "chill out."
"I'm very chilled out," he responded.
Despite Levin's objections -- and opposition from the rest of the Democrats on the committee -- lawmakers broke into closed session to debate the measure. After returning, they quickly approved the criminal referral.
A day earlier, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee formally laid out its case for contempt in a new report.
"Lois Lerner's testimony is critical to the committee's investigation," the oversight report stated.
"Without her testimony, the full extent of the IRS's targeting of Tea Party applications cannot be known, and the committee will be unable to fully complete its work."
The report repeatedly called out for Lerner for refusing to cooperate with the committee's investigation.
During her first appearance before the committee last year, Lerner gave an opening statement and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination three times before being excused. Last month, she was before the lawmakers once more, once again exercising her Fifth Amendment rights.
Here is what we have heard from Lerner so far...
“I have not done anything wrong,” she said.
“I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other committee.”