Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) on Wednesday compared the vote to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress to the McCarthy era.


McGovern said during House floor debate that Oversight Committee Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had gone too far in the panel's investigation of the IRS's scrutiny of conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status. At issue is whether Lerner waived her right to remain silent to avoid testifying before the committee.

"This exercise that we are engaged in today is nearly identical to the actions of Senator McCarthy," McGovern said. "It was wrong then, it is wrong now. This is sad, because it demeans this House of Representatives."

"Not even Joseph McCarthy was able to strip away an American citizen's constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment as Chairman Issa is trying to do," McGovern said.

McGovern further argued that the House GOP leadership had always politicized the investigation to rile the conservative base.

"The truth is that Chairman Issa and the Republican leadership really do not care about doing this fairly. And they never have," McGovern said.

Republicans said the contempt vote was necessary to further the investigation.

"Isn't it amazing that we have to go to a resolution to restore to the American people the faith and trust that they are quickly losing in the government?" asked Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.). "This has nothing to with anything other than honesty and truth."

It's not the first time Democrats have compared the IRS investigation to the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who led charges in the 1950s in accusing Americans of supporting communism. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, accused Issa last month of attempting to "re-create our committee in Joe McCarthy's image."