OVERNIGHT MONEY: IRS on the hot seat

FRIDAY'S BIG STORY:


The heat of 1,000 suns: To say Steven Miller, who announced his resignation from his Internal Revenue Service (IRS) post on Wednesday amid the fallout over the agency's heavy focus on conservative groups, will be on the hot seat Friday doesn't quite capture the pressure he will face on Capitol Hill. 

Miller will testify before the House Ways and Means Committee in what should be a long session of hard questioning from both Democrats and Republicans about the who, what, where, why and when the agency applied extra scrutiny to groups such as the Tea Party, which were seeking tax-exempt status.

His testimony comes ahead of former agency commissioner Doug Shulman, who left late last year. Shulman is expected to testify next week. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are going to demand answers as to why Miller and Shulman didn't tell Congress about the transgressions of targeting groups based on politics after they found out last year. And the questions won't stop there. 

Their testimony comes after a Treasury inspector general’s report found that ineffective IRS management led to the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups and requests for unnecessary information, like donor lists. Tea Party groups also faced long wait times for approval of their 501(c)(4) status requests.

The scandal claimed its second victim on Thursday with Joseph Grant, the acting commissioner for the agency's tax-exempt and government entities division, announcing his plans to retire on June 3. 

In taking steps forward, the White House named Office of Management (OMB) and Budget Controller Danny Werfel the next acting commissioner of the IRS on Thursday. 

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Over the last year at OMB, Werfel has been charged with planning out how the sequester would be implemented, but is now facing an even bigger job in restoring some if any confidence to the agency. 

The White House still has yet to say when it will nominate a permanent commissioner to replace Shulman. Miller, who is a 25-year IRS veteran of the agency, took over after Shulman departed last year. 

Meanwhile, Tea Party groups are teeing up lawsuits against the IRS and demanding that a special prosecutor be assigned to the case to ferret out exactly what happened.

On the Senate side, a group of Republicans is pushing a Treasury inspector general to investigate what they are calling the “likely illegal” disclosure of tax records to a news organization, a sign that the GOP is looking to deepen its investigation into the agency.

Let the questioning begin. 


WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING

What's the score?: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is set to release its score of President Obama's fiscal 2014 budget on Friday. The new score will apply CBO’s economic assumptions and methods to the budget, which arrived on Capitol Hill in April, about two months late. The House and Senate have each approved their own budgets. Senate Democrats have been calling on Republican leaders to appoint conferees in an attempt to reconcile their broad differences. So far, no dice. In the meantime, the House and Senate Appropriations committees are beginning the process of marking up spending bills.

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a 2014 Homeland Security funding bill, the second of 12 annual bills it needs to process before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The Homeland Security subcommittee approved the $38.9 billion bill on a voice vote during a markup that featured no amendments. Earlier this week, the committee moved a military construction and veterans affairs bill to the full committee as well.


LOOSE CHANGE

Turkey trade: President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed on Thursday to continue working on their trade relationship in talks at the White House on Thursday. With the United States and the European Union set to embark on trade talks this summer, the two leaders decided to establish a high-level committee led by top trade officials form both countries. 

Obama said that over the past four years, U.S. exports to Turkey have more than doubled.  

"As the United States pursues a new trade and investment partnership with the EU, I want to make sure that we also keep deepening our economic ties with Turkey," Obama said during a joint press conference.  

"So we’re creating a new high-level committee that will focus on increasing trade and investment between our two countries and will help fuel Turkish innovation. And the progress that Turkey’s economy has made over the last several years I think has been remarkable, and the prime minister deserves much credit for some of the reforms that are already taking place."

Trade has expanded to $20 billion from $8 billion a decade ago.

"But this amount is still not sufficient," Erdoğan said. "We have to increase the amount of trade between our two countries. And as we carry forward with these efforts, we need to strengthen this relationship with free trade agreements and other agreements. And I can tell you that as leaders of our nations we have the will to continue to develop our economic relations."

Erdoğan also met at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Vice President Biden and business leaders about the launch of the Chamber’s U.S.-Turkey Business Council.

“Turkey’s impressive economic growth solidifies its position as not only a gateway to markets in both Europe and the Middle East, but also as a burgeoning economy and investment partner for American businesses,” said Myron Brilliant, the Chamber’s executive vice president and head of International Affairs. 

“The time is right to intensify our focus on Turkey,” Brilliant said. “The American business community sees enormous opportunity in the Turkish market, and the U.S.-Turkey Business Council will lead this important effort.”


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Michigan Sentiment: Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan will release its measure of consumer sentiment for May.  

Leading indicators: The Conference Board will release a batch of previously announced economic indicators for April: new orders, jobless claims, money supply, average workweek, building permits and stock prices.


WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Pelosi: IRS scandal illustrates need to reverse Citizens United

— House panel approves $940B farm bill

— Boehner urged to sit on divisive bills while scandals play out 

— Warren opposes derivatives bills with House traction

— Jobless claims hit highest level in six weeks

— Housing starts slip, permits hit 5-year high

Perez gets party-line approval from Senate panel

— House Democrats shore up ranks behind Labor nominee

— Gov. Walker would use online sales tax to lower income tax

— Regulators issue more than 2,000 pages of Dodd-Frank rules

— Republican links IRS scandal to SEC’s corporate disclosure proposal


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