House Panel Votes to Hold Ex-IRS Official in Contempt

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The day after a House panel voted to refer the case of a former IRS official to the Department of Justice for criminal charges, a separate House committee has voted to hold her in contempt of Congress.

The party-line vote to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner – whom opponents accuse of improperly targeting conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status - in contempt was 21-12. The measure now goes to the full House for a vote.

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer Lerner to DOJ for criminal charges, saying that the panel found significant evidence of wrongdoing.

Republicans say that Lerner improperly invoked the Fifth Amendment despite professing that she had done nothing wrong.

In a statement, Lerner attorney William Taylor said Lerner "did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights by proclaiming her innocence."

"We are not surprised by today's partisan contempt vote," he said. "The notion that the majority is engaged in objective oversight or fact-finding is pure fiction. The vote is the latest in the majority's never-ending effort to keep the IRS story alive through the fall's midterm elections."

Democrats on the committee said that, while they did want to hear Lerner’s testimony on the matter, Republicans were victimizing Lerner for political purposes and violating her constitutional rights.

“I cannot cast a vote that would place me on the same page of the history books as Senator Joseph McCarthy or the House Un-American Activities Committee,” said Ranking Member Elijah Cummings. “And I do not draw that comparison lightly.”

Before the vote, Democrats made a last-minute push for Issa to release the full transcripts of the interviews related to the investigation. Cummings asserted that the information that has been made public has been cherry picked to make a case against Lerner. Issa said he is prepared to release the documents to members of Congress, but will not make the full transcripts public until all interviews have been completed and some information has been redacted.

The House used the same tactic in 2012 when it voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena for documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-running operation.

That measure passed from the House 255-67, with a large group of Democrats walking off the floor and not voting in protest.

NBC's Andrew Rafferty contributed to this report.