House Republicans voted today to hold a former Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at a pair of committee hearings about her role in the agency's tea party controversy. The House also passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS. Lois Lerner directed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. A year ago this week, Lerner publicly disclosed that agents had improperly singled out tea party applications for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny.
An inspector general's report blamed poor management but found no evidence of a political conspiracy. Many Republicans in Congress believe otherwise. "Who's been fired over the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS? No one that I'm aware of," said John Boehner. House Democrats said the party-line, 231-187 vote was little more than an election-year ploy to fire up the GOP base. "Welcome to witch hunt week," said Rep. Jim McGovern. The matter now goes to Ronald Machen, the US attorney for the District of Columbia. "We will carefully review the report from the speaker of the House and take whatever action is appropriate," his office said.