Finance Committee clears IRS nominee

On Friday the Senate Finance Committee cleared President Obama’s choice to lead the IRS, despite GOP objections that the panel was rushing the nomination.

The panel cleared John Koskinen via voice vote, with Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) as the lone audible "no" vote.

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But while close to unanimous, the vote also showed the strains that the Democrats’ recent decision to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” on presidential nominees has caused in the Senate.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a former Finance chairman, joined Roberts in blasting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) tactics on the nomination.

“I hope the way this nomination was handled is not evidence of how this committee will proceed in the future,” Grassley said. “And I don’t anticipate that’s the way the committee will [act] in the future, but the environment that Sen. Reid and the majority has created at this particular time seems to have brought this about.”

The Iowa Republican backed Koskinen’s nomination and said that his concerns had nothing to do with Koskinen himself, who has crafted a reputation as a corporate and government turnaround artist.

But Grassley also echoed the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in stressing that the Finance Committee should have held off on the nomination until it concluded its own investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. The findings of that investigation are not expected to be released until next year.

Grassley also said that the Friday vote seemed rushed, given that Koskinen’s confirmation hearing ended on Wednesday. The quick turnaround, Grassley said, meant that Koskinen was unable to answer follow-ups from committee members thoroughly.

Koskinen’s hearing started Tuesday, but then was halted by the GOP and pushed back for a day.

On Friday, the committee also cleared Sarah Bloom Raskin to be the deputy Treasury secretary and Rhonda Schnare Schmidtlein to be a member of the United States International Trade Commission.

The Senate has spent a couple of long days and nights working through presidential nominations, with Republicans using up much of their time to speak on the nominees.

Danny Werfel, the current interim IRS chief, has told lawmakers he will leave his post by the end of the year. Because of that, committee member Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said he wants Koskinen to be confirmed before the Senate breaks for 2013, which is scheduled to happen next week.