(CNSNews.com) - " Today is not about Lois Lerner or the alleged inappropriate tactics she may have employed," Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday. "Today is about protecting the integrity and the credibility of this committee."
Speier accused committee Republicans of fabricating a "vast conspiracy" around a "mid-level bureaucrat who may have made some poor decisions."
"There is no connection to the White House," Speier said. "What we are trying to do is hold in contempt a mid-level bureaucrat, and the actions of this committee won't hold up to judicial scrutiny."
Speier said if the Republicans' conspiracy notions had been real, they would have offered Lerner immunity right away: "Because the only way to build a conspiracy case is to grant immunity to the smaller players to get the larger ones."
Regardless of whether Lerner is found in contempt of Congress, "her name has been dragged through the mud and her bank account has been drained to pay her lawyers fees," Speier said.
And she complained that "millions of dollars have been spent on a taxpayer-funded witch hunt."
Responding, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said Thursday's hearing on a contempt resolution is necessary, because Lerner had "every opportunity" to cooperate with the committee since she first appeared before it last May.
He also noted that the investigation was not initiated by Republicans: He said the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration began his probe into the IRS tax-exempt office "after seven Democrat senators had exercised their concern and wanted investigation of what was going on at IRS and some of these groups."