The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to hold a former Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into the agency's special targeting of groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names that were seeking tax-exempt status.
On a 231 to 187 vote, the House approved a contempt citation against Lois G. Lerner, whose admission last year that the tax-enforcement agency had targeted conservative groups infuriated lawmakers in both parties, led to an overhaul of the IRS and Lerner's eventual retirement from government service.
Now the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The contempt charge will then be referred to a grand jury for further review, but it is unclear how the Justice Department will proceed. Politically, however, House Republicans will be able to declare victory after working swiftly in the last year to investigate the matter and hold a senior IRS official accountable for the agency's decision and her unwillingness to cooperate with a congressional investigation.
If ever convicted, Lerner could face between one and 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.