House Republicans call for special prosecutor on Tea Party targeting

House Republicans plan to vote next week on a resolution that would urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups.

In a statement announcing the vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Republicans have no faith in the investigation that is already being carried out at the Justice Department.

“It is time for Attorney General Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the IRS targeting scandal and bring the appropriate charges against those responsible,” Cantor said in a statement.

“This is far too serious a matter to leave to the discretion of partisan political appointees no matter who is in the White House.”

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Almost a year after the IRS controversy broke, House Republicans say that President Obama, Holder and other important members of the administration repeatedly have undercut the investigation into the agency’s treatment of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. 

Republicans have been angry for months that one of the key Justice Department lawyers on the IRS case has given thousands of dollars to Democratic causes, including Obama.

“We need this special counsel to help us get to the truth because the so-called investigation by the Justice Department has been a joke,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who introduced a resolution Friday calling for the special prosecutor.

“The current investigation has no credibility because it is being headed by a maxed-out donor who is financially invested in the president’s success,” Jordan added. “This resolution calls for a real investigation by an unbiased investigator to get to the truth and hold those responsible for this illegal targeting accountable for their actions.”

Several top Republicans involved in the congressional investigations into the IRS, including House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), joined on to Jordan’s resolution.

The resolution comes the same day that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced he would seek a select committee to investigate the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, another sign that Republicans are seeking to keep the heat on the administration this election year.

Congressional Democrats have long accused Republicans of turning the IRS investigation into a partisan spat, and pointed out that the various inquiries have found no White House involvement or signs of political involvement. 

"Another day, another desperate Republican effort to dredge up a political scandal even after a year of evidence has proven otherwise,” Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, said in a Friday statement.

“The IRS has spent more than $14 million in taxpayer money accommodating Republican requests, turning over more than 600,000 pages of documents, none of which substantiate the GOP's wild attempt from the get-go to tar the administration."

The House will also vote next week on contempt charges against Lois Lerner, the central figure in the IRS controversy who has twice invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before the Oversight panel.

Republicans argue that Lerner waived those rights by proclaiming her innocence in an opening statement in May 2013, and have separately pushed the Justice Department to examine whether Lerner should be prosecuted for singling out the prominent GOP group Crossroads GPS.

Jordan’s resolution would not be able to compel Holder to appoint a special prosecutor, and the Justice Department has so far shown no interest in heading down that path.

A Justice spokeswoman said last month that the department was undertaking an “active, ongoing investigation into the IRS’s handling of applications by tax-exempt organizations.”

“It remains a high priority of the department,” said the spokeswoman, Emily Pierce.

The push for a special prosecutor also marks something of a shift for Republicans.

Top GOP lawmakers weren’t interested in a special prosecutor in the weeks immediately after the IRS controversy broke last year, in large part because Holder would have the appointment power.

Holder and House Republicans have a famously toxic relationship, with the House having held the attorney general in contempt in 2012. 

— This story was first posted at 2:02 p.m. and has been updated.