Lois Lerner: With ex-IRS official taking the fifth, Elijah Cummings shouts over Darryl Issa's objections.

Watch Darrell Issa Takes His Gavel and Go Home Over Democrats' Protests

Watch Darrell Issa Takes His Gavel and Go Home Over Democrats' Protests

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March 5 2014 12:32 PM

With Ex-IRS Official Taking the Fifth, Lawmakers Fill the Silence and Then Some

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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) (R) gets up to leave as ranking member U.S. Rep. Elijah Cumming's (D-MD) (L) continues to speak after Issa adjourned the hearing

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Forner IRS official Lois Lerner this morning asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee investigating the department's increased scrutiny of certain tax-exempt organizations. She did the same thing this past May when she was first called to testify by Chairman Darrell Issa, so today's decision to keep her mouth shut this wasn't exactly a surprise (even if there had been some dispute as to whether she'd be willing to talk this time around). But what was something of a shock for observers used to seeing hearings that largely stick to a script: The impromptu grandstanding one-upmanship that then followed by Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the panel.

As you can see in the clip above, Issa wanted to take his gavel and go home after Lerner made her intentions not to talk clear, saying that he saw "no point in going further." Cummings, however, saw things differently. "I am a member of the Congress of the United States of America. I am tired of this," the Democrat shouted as his mic was cut off. "You cannot just have a one-sided investigation. There is something absolutely wrong with that. It is absolutely un-American." After a little more back and forth, Issa eventually left, gavel in hand, prompting a 1-2 parting punch from Cummings and fellow Democrat Gerry Connolly. "What are you hiding?" Cummings asked Issa as he was leaving. To which Connolly quipped: "He's taking the Fifth, Elijah."

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Shortly after the hearing, House Speaker John Boehner suggested that Lerner should testify or be held in contempt of Congress, adding that he'll wait for a full report from Issa on today's action, according to the Washington Post. Issa, meanwhile, conceded that his investigation may have nowhere else to go. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner," he told reporters after leaving the hearing. "Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.