Former IRS official Lois Lerner refused for a second time on Wednesday to testify about her role in a scheme to target conservative organizations that applied for tax-exempt status during President Barack Obama's first term in office.
Lerner risks arrest if she is found in contempt of Congress.
The House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee ruled on June 21, 2013 that Lerner, formerly in charge of the IRS's Exempt Organizations office, waived her right to invoke the Fifth
Amendment during a May 22 hearing when she insisted in a lengthy opening statement that she had done nothing wrong.
Wednesday's continuation of that hearing was a brief affair, with Oversight Committee Chairman Republican Rep. Darrell Issa adjourning it after Lerner cited the Fifth amendment again and refused to answer questions.
'Seeking the truth is the obligation of this committee. I can see no point in going further.' Issa said. 'I have no expectation that Mrs. Lerner will cooperate with this committee, and therefore we stand adjourned.'
After angry objections from ranking Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, Issa cut off his microphone, told Lerner, 'You're released,' and said, 'We're adjourned. Close it down.'
Cummings continued to complain loudly without the aid of a microphone.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that Lerner can't be compelled to testify against herself.
But with the committee ruling that Lerner's statements in May disqualified her from leaning on that right, she becomes subject to arrest if she continues to refuse to answer questions – either as leverage to force her to comply, or simply as punishment for thumbing her nose at Congress.
House Speaker John Boehner, seemed to support a contempt cititation as a last resort, telling reporters Wednesday that he would 'wait for a report from Chairman Issa about what happened or what will happen. But at some point I believe that she has to testify, or she should be held in contempt.'