WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) -- After months of partisan wrangling, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about alleged partisan targeting.
Hewing largely to party lines, members voted 231-187 to send the resolution to the Justice Department, which must now decide whether to prosecute her. Six Democrats -- Ron Barber of Arizona, John Barrow of Georgia, Patrick Murphy of Florida, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Nick Rahall of West Virginia -- voted for the resolution.
Minutes later, the House passed a resolution, 250-168, urging Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the alleged wrongdoing at the IRS.
Lerner refused to testify before a House committee on several occasions over the past year on her role in a scandal in which the IRS allegedly targeted conservative groups trying to apply for tax exempt status ahead of the 2012.
"You don't get to use a public hearing to tell the public and press your side of the story and then invoke the Fifth," said Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has led the investigation into Lerner, on the House floor. "That is not how the Fifth Amendment is meant to be used. It is a shield; Lois Lerner used it as a sword."
Democrats have accused the GOP of propagating a false narrative, citing reports that found the IRS's team had looked into groups on both sides of the political spectrum.
"Today's vote has nothing to do with the facts or the law," said Lerner's attorney, William Taylor, in a statement. "Its only purpose is to keep the baseless IRS 'conspiracy' alive through the mid-term elections. Ms. Lerner has not committed contempt of Congress. She did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights by proclaiming her innocence."