By Bernie Becker and Vicki Needham - 05/16/13 12:00 AM EDT
Top Democrats like Reps. Sandy Levin (Mich.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.) called the president’s move an early and decisive step toward restoring order at the IRS. Levin and Cummings are ranking Democrats at the House Ways and Means and Oversight panels, respectively, both of which are holding hearings on the matter over the next week.
“The actions taken by the IRS were unacceptable, and it is appropriate and necessary for the responsible parties to be held accountable,” added House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “There is no place for these kinds of practices in our country, and it merits a thorough review to ensure this does not happen again.”
Obama added Wednesday that he was urging Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to implement the recommendations in the inspector general’s report, and that he wanted to work with lawmakers in both parties as they investigated the IRS’s actions.
“After reading the Inspector General’s report issued yesterday, it became clear that the IRS needs new leadership to restore public trust and confidence in the agency," Lew in a statement.
Lew called this "type of misconduct at any agency, but especially the IRS, is inexcusable and unacceptable. And I will not tolerate it.
“Today, in order to begin the process of restoring trust in the IRS, I requested and accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner. There is more work to do, and we will get it done by ensuring the IRS implements new safeguards and administers the tax code fairly and without bias.”
But some top Republicans, though heartened by that statement, said there was still much to learn from their investigation, and that they hoped the president would follow through.
“This resignation does nothing to change the culture of discrimination at the IRS,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). “And, it certainly does nothing to change the fact that the tax system is targeting honest, hardworking taxpayers instead of working for them. There are still far too many unanswered questions and until we know what truly happened, we cannot fully fix what is wrong.”
“If the president is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal—no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses,” added Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the top Republican on the Finance panel, said that he was glad the president sounded open to working with GOP lawmakers, and that his committee’s investigation would be both bipartisan and robust. The Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue next week.
“Whether a conservative, moderate or a liberal, what happened at the IRS is chilling and violates the most basic American principle that our liberty requires restraints on government,” Hatch said.
But off Capitol Hill, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, stressed that “simply allowing the acting head of the IRS to resign is not enough.”
“This is clearly a scapegoat that distracts from answering the core questions from information that has been known within the administration for over a year: Who in the White House knew what and when? If they were aware earlier of improper activity, why wasn’t action taken sooner?” Priebus said.
--This report was updated at 8:57 p.m.