House passes resolution calling for IRS special counsel

The House on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel for the Internal Revenue Service investigation.

The resolution, passed 250-168, came minutes after the House voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. Twenty-six Democrats voted in favor of it.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said that appointing a special counsel was necessary to ensure a fair investigation of the agency's scrutiny of conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status.

"The administration cannot credibly investigate this matter," Goodlatte said. "The American people deserve to know who ordered the targeting, when the targeting was ordered and why."

The House Ways and Means Committee voted last month to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. The Justice Department has not  moved on the referral, however. 

Republicans have taken particular issue that one of the key Justice Department lawyers on the IRS case has given thousands of dollars to Democratic causes.

"If we don't have a conflict of interest here, I don't know where we do," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Democrats said that the vote, like the contempt proceedings, was a political stunt aimed at galvanizing the GOP base ahead of the midterm elections.

"This hallowed institution must not be turned into a campaign arm of either political party. And that's what the House Republicans are exactly doing here," said Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.)

"This is the House of Representatives. Not a political circus," Levin said.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said that House Republicans did not have to resort to a full House vote to request a special counsel.

"Rather than simply writing a letter to the attorney general asking him to appoint a special counsel, which is the time-honored way to do this, the House leadership has resorted to using a resolution that is subject to floor debate and of course C-SPAN coverage, but has no real legal effect," Jackson Lee said.

 

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