The week ahead: House to hold ex-IRS official in contempt

Controversy over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups will heat up this week as the House votes to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.

Lerner, the former director of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations, has become the face of the investigation that the agency applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking a tax exemption.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also announced the lower chamber would vote on a resolution calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the alleged IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. 

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

After the House vote, Lerner's case will likely move to the courts.

This will be the second time in two years that the House has voted to hold an Obama administration official in contempt of Congress. The House voted in June 2012 on a resolution leveling contempt charges against Holder. Republicans accused the Justice Department of not providing documents related to the "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation. 

Additionally, the House may consider a resolution to create a select committee to investigate the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Research and development tax credit

Tax policy will also come up again as the House will considers a standalone "extender" tax bill to extend the research and development tax credit championed by the business community. It would cost $155 billion over 10 years with no offset. The credit expired at the end of last year, along with more than 50 other tax breaks.

Democrats at a House Ways and Means Committee markup last week criticized the lack of a pay-for. But Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) noted that the two-year $85 billion package to extend more than 50 tax breaks recently advanced by the Senate Finance Committee does not have any offsets either. 

The Senate is expected to vote on the full package, rather than one extension at a time, in the coming weeks. But lawmakers overseeing tax policy have indicated that a final deal to extend the expired tax breaks may not crystallize until after the midterm elections. 

Charter school reform

Later in the week, the House will vote on bipartisan legislation written by House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and the panel's top Democrat, Rep. George Miller of California. The bill would consolidate the two existing federal charter school grant programs into one that would award grants to state entities, such as charter school boards and local agencies. 

Some Democrats oppose charter schools because teachers' unions, a key party supporter, can consequently have less authority. Other Democrats say that charter schools are held less accountable because they don't have to adhere to federal requirements, such as providing disability services.  

Energy efficiency, Keystone 

The Senate is expected to consider an energy efficiency legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) would expand building codes, provide training for workers in energy-efficient building technologies and boost conservation efforts at federal agencies.

Senate Democrats have been in talks to hold a vote on constructing the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats up for reelection this cycle, including Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), have backed a measure that would immediately greenlight the pipeline's construction.

Monday, May 5

The Senate will convene at 2 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., senators will vote on the following nominations:

- Nancy Moritz to be a U.S. circuit judge for the tenth circuit.
- Peter Selfridge to be chief of protocol and hold the rank of ambassador.

The House will not be in session.

Tuesday, May 6

The Senate is expected to vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to an energy efficiency bill, S. 2262

The House will convene at 2 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., it will vote on the following bills under suspension of the rules:

H.R. 3584, to allow privately insured credit unions to be eligible for membership in the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

- H.R. 2672, to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to create an application process for counties to be designated as "rural" in order to qualify for certain mortgages.

- H.R. 4386, to allow the Treasury secretary to use state examinations for certain financial institutions instead of federal reporting requirements.

- H.R. 3329, to direct the Federal Reserve to propose a revised regulation to expand the Small Bank Holding Company Policy statement to bank holding companies and savings and loan companies with consolidated assets of less than $1 billion. Currently, only bank holding companies with assets of less than $500 million can qualify.

- H.R. 3468, to provide coverage from the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund for credit union members holding funds for the use of nonmembers.

- H.R. 2919, to direct the Chairman of the Administrative Conference of the U.S. to report to Congress annually on the expenses awarded to prevailing parties in certain administrative proceedings and civil action court cases.

- H.R. 4292, to clarify certain art exhibitions from foreign countries allow any activity in the U.S. associated with the temporary display to not be considered commercial activities.
 

Wednesday, May 7

The Senate will likely continue consideration of the energy efficiency bill.

The House will begin considering a measure, H.R. 4438, to extend the research and development tax credit. 

It will also vote on the following bills under suspension of the rules:

- H.R. 863, to establish a commission to study the creation of the National Women's History Museum.

- H. Con. Res. 83, to authorize the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for an event commemorating the birthday of King Kamehameha I.

- H. Res. 418, to urge the Burmese government to end the persecution of the Rohingya people.

- H.R. 2548, to direct the president to create a multi-year strategy to help countries in sub-Saharan Africa provide people with access to electricity.

- H.R. 4366, to reauthorize the Institute of Education Sciences and modify programs such as the National Assessment of Education Progress.
 

Thursday, May 8

The House may consider a resolution to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. It will also vote on a separate resolution to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting controversy.

Friday, May 9

The House is expected to consider a bill, H.R. 10, to expand access to charter school funding. 

The Senate is not expected to be in session.