By Jack Minor –
Any hope of getting answers from the woman at the height of the IRS scandal regarding the targeting of conservative groups were not only dashed, but the hearing was highly contentious after Democrat Elijah Cummings railed at Republican attempts to find answers.
Last year former IRS official Lois Lerner first leaked the information that the agency had engaged in improper behavior in approving the tax exempt status of non-profit groups, however she insisted that the entire blame rested on a pair of rogue agents in the Cincinnati office.
When the news first broke President Obama said he was outraged over the IRS’s actions and vowed to get to the bottom of the problem.
As the investigation progressed it quickly became apparent that Lerner was not being truthful about the problem being limited to two low level agents. The vast majority of the groups targeted for heightened scrutiny were conservative groups or those with the name tea party on their names. The delays in the approval of their status severely hindered their ability to educate voters during the 2012 election. By contrast, liberal groups were given a fast track including one group that was given retroactive approval.
When Lerner was called to testify last year she asserted her Fifth Amendment rights, but then went on to make a statement. It was later decided that by making a statement she waived her Fifth Amendment rights. On Wednesday, she was called again to testify after Congress has gathered more evidence revealing her part in the targeting scandal. Among the questions asked of conservative groups were what were the content of their prayers.
During today’s hearing which lasted 15 minutes Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican asked direct questions such as what she meant by a phrase in an email she sent that tea party groups are dangerous. Each time Lerner replied that on the advice of counsel she would not answer the questions. With no other questions to be asked of Lerner, Issa said “seeking the truth is the obligation of this committee” and then adjourned the hearing.
It was then that the real fireworks began.
Immediately after adjourning the hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the leading Democrat Oversight Ranking Member chimed in, blasting Issa’s attempts to get answers from Lerner. Issa noted that Cummings had an opportunity to raise a point of order or ask a question prior to the hearing being adjourned.
After Cummings ignored Issa and continued with his rant, Issa ordered all of the microphones shut of since the hearing was adjourned.
“Mr. Chairman, you cannot run a committee like this,” Cummings shouted, calling Issa’s inquiry a “one-sided investigation” and saying, “We’re better than this as a country.”
“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America, and I am tired of this,” Cummings shouted.