GOP senators seek legislation on IRS bonuses

Three senior Senate Republicans introduced legislation on Thursday to bar any Internal Revenue Service employees with tax debt from receiving bonuses.

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The legislation from Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), all members of the tax-writing Finance Committee, comes on the heels of a Treasury inspector general report that found the IRS gave more than $1 million in bonuses to employees with tax issues.

“This isn’t a partisan issue — it’s just commonsense. Until the IRS gets back on course, it should not be in the business of awarding bonuses — particularly to its agents who are unable or unwilling to abide by the tax laws they are directed to uphold,” Roberts said in a statement.

The measure marks at least the third bill dealing with the bonuses introduced in the Senate just this week. Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced legislation on Tuesday, while Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) dropped a measure on Wednesday.

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced the House version of the bill from Roberts, Enzi and Thune.

The bills come close to one year after the IRS apologized for giving improper scrutiny to Tea Party groups, an admission that set off a firestorm on and off Capitol Hill.

John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner, has already come under fire this year for approving more than $60 million in bonuses, some of which went to staffers with tax issues.

Koskinen has said that he wants to ensure that employees delinquent on their taxes don’t get awards in the future, but has urged Congress to give him time to negotiate with the National Treasury Employees Union.

Committee leaders have signaled that they’ll take a wait-and-see approach to the issue, but the new bill shows that congressional leaders, at least on the GOP side, have an interest in legislation.

Thune is in Senate Republican leadership, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has signed on to the bill as well. 

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