By Justin Sink - 08/01/13 05:54 PM EDT
President Obama is nominating John Koskinen, a former official at Freddie Mac and a corporate turnaround specialist, as the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, the White House said Thursday.
“John is an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform," the president said in a statement. "With decades of experience, in both the private and public sectors, John knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances."
"Every part of our government must operate with absolute integrity and that is especially true for the IRS," Obama said. "I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public’s trust in the agency.”
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Koskinen is the "right person to take on this critical position at this important time."
"Because John has a clear understanding of how to make organizations more effective and an unshakeable commitment to public service, he will be an exceptional leader who will strengthen the institution and restore confidence in the IRS," Lew said.
The White House said when it appointed Werfel that he was only expected to serve until the end of the fiscal year — Sept. 30. He may return to the Office of Management and Budget, where he previously served as agency controller.
Koskinen's nomination comes as the White House is looking to disarm the IRS scandal, which has inflicted damage on Obama's approval rating throughout the summer.
When the IRS inspector general first released his report identifying instances where conservative and Tea Party groups had been wrongfully targeted by the tax agency, Obama called the situation "inexcusable."
"Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it," Obama said. "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives."
But in recent weeks, the president and top administration officials have repeatedly accused Republicans of pursuing "phony scandals" to hammer the White House.
"What some in Congress have failed to do despite many attempts is to provide any evidence — because there is none — that that activity was in any way known by, or directed by, the White House, or was even partisan or political," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.
"As testimony has shown that I’ve seen produced publicly in the press — although not by the Republican chairman of the committee — self-identified Republicans who participated in the reviews of these applications for tax-exempt status clearly denied that there was … any partisan or political motivation to what they were doing."
House Republicans have accused the administration of continuing to impede their investigation and of downplaying a serious matter.
In a letter Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told Werfel that "the actions of the IRS under your leadership have made clear to the committee that the agency has no intention of complying completely or promptly with the committee's oversight efforts."
"The systematic manner in which the IRS has attempted to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct the committee's investigation raises serious concerns about your commitment to full and unfettered congressional oversight," Issa said.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday there was "nothing phony" about the scandals, saying "the agency enforcing [the president's] health care law has been harassing Americans because of their political beliefs."
The IRS has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent months, from the targeting of exempt groups to lavish spending on agency conferences.
Werfel was brought in under explicit orders to clean house, and the White House is signaling that the effort will continue once Koskinen is confirmed by the Senate.
Koskinen, 72, has a long and varied history of public and private service. He was appointed by President Bush in 2008 to lead the Freddie Mac board during the government-backed mortgage giant's struggles through the recession. During the Clinton Administration, he worked as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, helping to coordinate the government shutdowns in the mid 1990s.
He also held a position as City Administrator of the District of Columbia and was put in charge of coordinating the U.S. response to Y2K. In 1994, he served as the chairman of the DC Host Committee that brought the World Cup to Washington D.C.