Baucus hands off IRS investigation

The Senate Finance Committee will be unable to complete a bipartisan investigation into the IRS controversy before its chairman, Max Baucus, becomes ambassador to China, committee aides said Thursday.

Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the Finance panel’s top Republican, have been investigating the IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt groups since shortly after the agency’s apology last May.

But aides to the two senators said that the task was too big to be completed before Baucus, who was confirmed to be President Obama’s envoy to Beijing on Thursday, leaves the Senate after 35 years.

Sean Neary, a spokesman for Baucus, and Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Hatch, said the Utah Republican would huddle with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Baucus’s replacement, to decide the committee’s next steps.

“Over the past nine months, the Committee’s investigators have reviewed more than 540,000 pages of documents and interviewed 28 IRS employees, from the most senior management to mid and lower staff as well,” Neary and Ferrier said in a statement.

“The IRS continues to provide thousands of new documents related to our inquiry, including 32,000 new pages of documents in the past week.” 

Baucus and Hatch had hoped to release the results of their investigation last year, but said they faced delays due to last year’s government shutdown.

Finance Committee members have long contrasted their bipartisan, more low-key investigation with the more contentious inquiries occurring in the House.

Congressional Republicans have also shown intensified interest in the IRS investigation in recent days, with 11 top GOP lawmakers calling on the agency’s new commissioner, John Koskinen, to withdraw proposed rules for tax-exempt groups.