The House has held Lois Lerner in contempt, but it won’t use its power to place the former IRS official under arrest, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Sunday.
Under a precedent affirmed by the Supreme Court, each chamber of Congress can authorize its sergeant-at-arms to detain individuals it holds in contempt. But Boehner said on “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” on Fox News that he has no interest in doing that with Lerner, whom the House last week voted to hold in contempt over her refusal to testify about her role in the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups.
“I’m not sure we want to go down that path,” Boehner said. “It’s never been used,” he said of the provision allowing Congress to arrest individuals and place them in the Capitol jail. The Senate has in fact used that power, but not in the last 80 years. “I’m not sure that it’s an appropriate way to go about this,” Boehner said.
The contempt charge has been referred to the Justice Department, and Boehner said it is up to Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Lerner.
“Now will he do it? We don’t know, but the ball is in his court,” Boehner said.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington has said it is reviewing the referral. Lerner has repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but the House contends she waived that right by defending herself in an opening statement at a House hearing last year before she refused to answer questions from lawmakers.
–This report was updated at 6:55 p.m.