WASHINGTON D.C. – The House Oversight Committee voted 22-17 on a resolution Friday stating that Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she made an opening statement while appearing before the committee in May.
Lerner is the Internal Revenue Service official at the center of the agency’s targeting of conservative and tea party groups applying for non-profit status. She began her testimony before the committee in May by making a statement and then invoking her Fifth Amendment rights.
The committee voted along party lines with Democrats saying the statement had not waived her rights.
Committee chairman Darrell Issa said at the opening of the committee’s meeting Friday that Lois Lerner waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she testified before the committee in May.
“She did so when she delivered an opening statement,” Issa said, Fox News reports.
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws,” she said in her opening statement. “I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Daniel Werfel, the IRS head, asked for Lerner’s resignation after following her appearance before the committee. After refusing to resign, she was placed on administrative leave.
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina concurred with the California Republican’s conclusion.
“That’s not how the Fifth Amendment works,” Gowdy said. “You’re not allowed to just say your side of the story . . . She could have sat there and said nothing.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that he does want to hear what Lerner knows about the IRS scandal, but he also wants to be careful to “respect the constitutional rights of every witness who comes before this committee,” The Washington Times reports.
A Republican staff member who works for the Oversight committee told Politico that they are willing to negotiate with Lerner’s attorneys other options such as granting her partial immunity so that her testimony won’t be held against her in court.
Politico notes that if Lerner refuses to testify, she could be held in contempt.