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IRS' Lois Lerner held in contempt by U.S. House

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Yesterday, May 7, 2014, the U.S. House voted in favor of holding Lois Lerner, a former official with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A handful of Democrats and all Republicans voted for the contempt citation in an effort to force Lerner into court to explain her actions while at the IRS. The IRS sees Lerner as the lynchpin in the investigation concerning denial and lengthy delays for conservative groups' approval of tax-exempt status. Lerner is accused of either herself being biased against conservative-leaning groups, or being directed to harass the groups.

By law, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia must form a grand jury investigation. The U.S. House also passed another resolution to have the U.S. appoint a special prosecutor into the incident.

Yesterday, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said, "Who's been fired over the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS? No one that I'm aware of. Who's gone to jail for violating the law? When is the administration going to tell the American people the truth?"

"The only route to the truth is through the House of Representatives," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio). "That's why this resolution is so important." Rep. Lee Terry said, "If we don' t hold Lois Lerner accountable for her actions, then we're sending a message to future administrations that this type of Nixonian behavior is acceptable."

Last summer Lerner appeared before the Oversight Committee with an opening statement, said she did nothing wrong or illegal, then stated she was invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. The issue of whether she voided her Fifth Amendment right by initially talking before the committee has been hotly contested since her appearance. Lerner has continued to stall the House investigation, and it will be up to Ronald Machen of the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. whether to compel her to testify. Should Machen choose not to pursue the matter, then the U.S. House would still have the option to file a lawsuit forcing the Justice Department to get involved.

The issue has become mostly political with Republicans and Democrats on opposite sides of the issue. Elected Democrats are working to protect Lerner, and potential higher-ups, in hopes to quash the issue. So far, they have been unsuccessful.

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