The House Oversight Committee voted 21-12 to find Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. A vote must now be taken up by the full House.
Before the vote there was strong disagreement over what it would accomplish. Republicans have maintained since last year that Lerner waived her right to assert the Fifth Amendment when she made a speech proclaiming her innocence at the first hearing. Republicans argue that forcing Lerner to testify is the only way to get to the bottom of the incident in which she seems to have been heavily involved. In contrast, Rep. Cummings made an opening statement comparing the coming vote to the behavior of the House Un-American Activities Committee and to Joesph McCarthy.
Republicans and Democrats on the Committee then took turns arguing their positions before the CSPAN cameras for several hours. Republicans argued that Lerner had waived her right to assert the Fifth and Democrats demanded that the majority release complete transcripts of interviews with witnesses.
Rep. Issa and Rep. Cummings had one exchange toward the end of the hearing that was striking for its civil, almost genteel, nature. It was quite a contrast from the fireworks last month, when Lerner was called to testify before the Committee for a second time and Issa cut off Cummings’ microphone as Cummings raised his voice to decry the proceedings. Issa later apologized for his behavior.
Wednesday the House Ways and Means Committee voted to authorize a criminal referral asking the DOJ to “take a serious review of the evidence uncovered through the Committee’s investigation to determine whether Lerner violated criminal statutes.”