House sets contempt vote for Lerner

 

The House next week will consider a resolution holding former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday.

House GOP leaders earlier this week rejected a meeting request from Lerner's lawyer. Bill Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder asked GOP leaders in a letter to allow Lerner to directly make the case to lawmakers that the charges against her would not stand up in court.

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Republicans say that Lerner, the former director of the IRS department overseeing tax-exempt groups, waived her Fifth Amendment rights by stating her innocence during an opening statement in a hearing before the House Oversight Committee. Lerner insists that her right to remain silent was not waived.

The House Oversight Committee approved the charges on April 10 in a party-line vote. A full House vote will further intensify the ongoing controversy that has riled the GOP conservative base.

Next week's contempt vote will also coincide with the one-year anniversary of the revelations that the IRS allegedly applied extra scrutiny to conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status. Lerner quickly became perhaps the central figure in that controversy after becoming the first IRS official to apologize for the agency's treatment of Tea Party groups.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and other Republicans have used the threat of contempt charges to try to compel Lerner to testify before Congress. Cantor said in a memo last week that the House would not hold her in contempt if she agreed to testify.

The last vote to hold an administration official in contempt of Congress was in June of 2012. But that did not help House Republicans secure documents from Attorney General Eric Holder related to the “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation; the case has still not moved through the court system.

Cantor also said that the House will consider an extension of the research and development tax credit, which was reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. It would cost $155 billion over 10 years with no offset.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) criticized the lack of a pay-for in the extension of the credit, which expired at the end of 2013.

"It has all the candy, and none of the spinach," Hoyer said.

Cantor defended extending the tax credit.

"It will help businesses grow. It will help communities grow," Cantor said.

In addition, the House will also consider a charter schools reform bill, H.R. 10., a top Cantor priority. The measure is sponsored by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. George Miller of California.

—Bernie Becker contributed to this report. 

—This story was updated at 2:02 p.m.