WASHINGTON -- Two House of Representatives committees held nearly unprecedented votes this week targeting the former IRS official at the heart of the scandal over tax-exempt political groups. But the most illuminating thing about those votes, and the committee investigations that preceded them, may be what they didn't reveal: Any ties to the White House.
Some Republicans charged early in the scandal that the White House or President Barack Obama's reelection campaign had targeted conservatives seeking non-profit status for their so-called social welfare groups. It turned out a handful of liberals got targeted, too.
Nearly 10 months later, Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) Oversight Committee on Thursday and Rep. Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved referrals that aim to have the Department of Justice punish Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS Exempt Organizations division.
Issa's committee resolution calls on the full House to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for asserting her Fifth Amendment rights in not testifying to them. It would theoretically require federal prosecutors to draw up charges. Camp's committee voted to disclose certain taxpayer information to the Justice Department in a request to have Lerner prosecuted for what she may have done to cause the scandal.
That comes after extensive investigations by the committees that included questioning of dozens of IRS workers for depositions. The Oversight Committee collected more than 400,000 pages of documents and the Ways and Means Committee obtained 660,000.
In all of that, if there was any suggestion of White House involvement, no one mentioned the discovery. Indeed, it showed how much the focus has narrowed to one mid-level IRS worker, Lois Lerner.
While Republicans insist there is still more material to be examined, at least one suggested the trail may be at an end, according to a transcript of the closed Ways and Means hearing. The transcript, released Friday, shows Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.) suggested the buck stops with Lerner.
"Based on what we have seen here and the commonsense world of politics that we have all experienced, we know exactly what Lois Lerner was doing. She was targeting people," Roskam said, adding that it was his committee's responsibility to forward the matter to the Department of Justice, and the DOJ's job to determine if she broke the law.
"We are not going to sit here and just look away," Roskam continued. "We are going to give this the imprimatur of the Ways and Means Committee to say, this is so egregious on the part of this employee of the federal government, it appears to us she took it upon herself to target people, to release information, to obstruct an ongoing investigation that we all rely on.
"I would say, look, this is not about donkeys and elephants; this is about the assertion of this committee and our responsibility to call balls and strikes," Roskam added.
And so far, the White House isn't in the ballpark.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.