New IRS chief's first hearing is Monday

The acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner is scheduled to make his first appearance before Congress in his new role on Monday as controversy over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups continues to swirl.

Acting IRS chief Danny Werfel’s debut will come before a House Appropriations subcommittee, a panel that has so far had little involvement in the congressional investigation of the agency.

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Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that deals with financial services, said the hearing would examine how the upcoming appropriations bills can help prevent the targeting from happening again.

Crenshaw’s office added that the hearing was specifically called to address the extra attention the IRS gave to Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Lawmakers, including members of the three congressional panels to hold hearings on the IRS’s actions, have been pressing to hear from Werfel since he first took the helm of the agency last week.

Werfel, formerly a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget, is set to appear with Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, whose report outlined the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups.

“As the subcommittee drafts the Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Services Appropriations Bill, it is critical to gain a clear understanding of how the IRS uses the taxpayer dollars it receives from Congress and to research how our bill can help prevent abuses like those revealed in the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report from ever happening again,” Crenshaw said in a statement.

“The IRS admission that individual group applications for tax-exempt status were inappropriately singled out for further review is chilling. The subcommittee looks forward to helping ensure that taxpayer dollars are used properly and that all Americans are treated equally regardless of their political affiliation.”

Werfel’s appearance will help jumpstart Congress’s return to Washington after a week away, as lawmakers undoubtedly will be looking to pepper the new chief with questions about how and why the agency gave added attention to conservative groups and what the agency is doing to correct the issue and discipline those involved.

The House Ways and Means, Senate Finance and House Oversight committees have already held hearings into the scrutiny the IRS gave to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, and all have promised to keep digging into the matter.

Both House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), said during a hearing last week that they would like for Werfel to appear before their committee as well, but it remains to be seen when and if that would happen.

Werfel is also scheduled to meet this week with George. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has tasked Werfel with reporting back in a month on the acting chief’s progress on making sure that staffers involved in the controversy are held accountable, and looking for and fixing any flaws in the system that allowed the targeting to happen. Werfel is slated to remain in his position until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Steven Miller, the acting IRS chief ousted by President Obama this month, and George also sat down with a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on May 8 – just two days before Lois Lerner, an IRS official central to the current uproar, first apologized for the agency’s actions.