Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
IRS official Lois Lerner is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2013, before the House Oversight Committee hearing to investigate the extra scrutiny IRS gave to Tea Party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. Lerner's lawyer asked Monday to address the House ahead of a vote to hold his client in contempt of Congress.

WASHINGTON — The lawyer for a former Internal Revenue Service official at the heart of the agency's tea party controversy asked Monday to address the House ahead of a vote to hold his client in contempt of Congress.

He probably won't get the chance.

Lois Lerner directed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. This month, the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions at a pair of hearings about IRS agents improperly singling out tea party applications for extra scrutiny.

"We write to request an opportunity to present to the House the reasons why it should not hold Ms. Lerner in contempt," Lerner's lawyer, William W. Taylor III, wrote in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"Holding Ms. Lerner in contempt would not only be unfair and, indeed, un-American, it would be flatly inconsistent with the Fifth Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court," Taylor wrote.

In an email, Taylor clarified that Lerner's lawyers would address the House, if given the chance — not Lerner herself.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., responded on Twitter: "The House welcomes the opportunity for Lois Lerner to address our members. She can do so at any time before the House Oversight Committee."

The House is expected to vote on the contempt measure in May.