House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., reconvened a hearing Wednesday that began more than nine months ago to investigate whether the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting conservative groups, a scandal that was exposed in 2013.
The problem was, he didn’t have a witness to answer his questions – again.
Lerner once again asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to testify, as she did last May when she was first called to testify. Before she first spoke at the hearing Wednesday, Issa warned that his committee would consider whether to hold her in contempt if she declined to testify.
At the first part of the hearing last May, Lerner delivered an opening statement declaring she had done nothing wrong, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer any more questions. Republicans, however, concluded she did and have recalled her to answer questions about why Lerner gave heightened scrutiny to conservative groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names when reviewing applications for tax-exempt status.
The move did not sit well with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who demanded a chance to speak as Issa brought the hearing to close after repeated attempts to question Lerner, with no avail.
“Mr. Chairman you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this. We’re better than that as a country,” Cummings said, his voice rising as Issa stood up to leave and the members’ microphones were cut off. “There is absolutely something wrong with that and that is absolutely un-American!”
“I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America!” Cummings shouted at Issa, who talked over him to tell the room that the hearing had been adjourned. “I am tired of this!”