GOP bill would suspend IRS audits

House Republicans last week proposed legislation that would suspend the ability of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to conduct audits until the IRS itself is audited by Congress.

The bill, from Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), is the latest in a string of measures that have been offered in the wake of the IRS's admission it applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups over the last few years. Republicans have said those activities were politically motivated and went unreported by senior Obama administration officials in the run-up to the 2012 election.

"We're seeing the tip of the iceberg," Fleming said last week. "Tea party groups, conservative professors, opinion makers who dared to speak out against Obama, and even Billy Graham were targeted for interrogations that dug into private records, seeking information on everything from donor names to Facebook posts.

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"The IRS has breached the trust of the American people and its misuse of the authority to audit must be stopped while Congress investigates the breadth of this scandal."

Fleming's Audit the IRS Act would prevent these sorts of inquiries for 180 days, which would give Congress time to examine "how audits were misused and who is responsible for any criminal actions."

Fleming rejected claims by President Obama and top administration officials that IRS probes into conservative groups were not politically motivated. But he said their argument that these probes took place without coordination, if true, may be even worse.

"If that's true, then our worst fears about the IRS may be true: countless IRS agents are going rogue and using their government-backed power to carry out personal and political vendettas," he said. "I'm not convinced that's the case, and Congress needs to investigate to find out who authorized this policy."

Co-sponsors of the bill are Reps. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), John Culberson (R-Texas) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.).

House Republicans have introduced a few new bills aimed at limiting IRS actions in the wake of the scandal. So far, House GOP leaders have not indicated that any of these will be considered on the House floor.

But Republicans could be moving in that direction. Just last week, the House Ways & Means Committee held a hearing with acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller, who has said he would resign early next month.

Since that hearing, Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has said the IRS purposefully mislead Congress by failing to admit its actions earlier and said he would continue investigating the IRS.