The Colorado Republican felt justified.
The measure passed on a bipartisan vote of 250 to 168, with 26 Democrats voting with Republicans. A second measure finding IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress passed 231 to 187 with only six Democrats crossing the aisle to vote with the GOP.
Tipton was exultant after the bipartisan showing, coming up behind one reporter to land a double-handed slap on the shoulder with the news.
“Hey, we got 26!” Tipton said.
Fifteen months before the IRS scandal broke in May 2013, Tipton asked that his comments about complaints he received from tea party groups be submitted into the Congressional Record.
“Requesting extremely detailed information with regards to certain membership activities, candidate forums, and even civic voter registration drives is worrisome, and it is my hope that this is legitimate and not intended to complicate the filing process for political reasons,” Tipton wrote last year to the chairman of a House Ways and Means subcommittee that examined the IRS practices.
The 26 Democrats who defected represented only one-seventh of the House Democratic caucus, but their votes lent credibility to Tipton’s statement that the IRS had been used for partisan purposes.
“This is not a political issue. It’s about conservative, liberal, and independent groups being able to engage in free speech and not be punished for it,” Tipton said.
Unlike some of their colleagues, Colorado Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter voted against both resolutions.
Republican Reps. Tipton, Cory Gardner, Doug Lamborn, and Mike Coffman voted in favor of both resolutions.
Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois, a Democrat who voted no on the resolutions, told The Observer the measures were partisan. “When you see an opportunity in politics, you exploit it,” Davis said.
Tipton disagreed: “You can’t come into Congress, say you’re innocent, and then invoke the Fifth Amendment.”
The actions addressed the agency’s singling out of conservative non-profit groups that applied for tax-exempt status from May 2010 to May 2012.
At a meeting of the American Bar Association in Las Vegas in May 2013, Lerner, the director of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Office, said that its branch in Cincinnati, Ohio, centralized applications after receiving a flood of them from non-profit organizations after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United in January 2010.
Lerner earned the ire of most members of Congress after she declared her innocence during an opening statement at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform last spring, but then refused to answer questions and invoked her Fifth Amendment rights.
As of press time, the White House has not responded to either of the House resolutions.