By Russell Berman - 05/15/13 03:04 PM EDT
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he wants to see the IRS employees responsible for targeting conservative groups behind bars.
“My question isn’t about who’s going to resign, my question is, who’s going to jail over this scandal?” Boehner said at a Capitol press conference, as Republicans seized on the tax agency’s admission that it inappropriately singled out Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status for higher scrutiny.
The Speaker and other House Republican leaders used a number of controversies to criticize the Obama administration over a lack of accountability. Boehner again pushed for the public release of emails related to the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack, and he said he was “befuddled” by the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records from The Associated Press as part of a leak investigation.
“Washington gone wild is what many Kansans are thinking this morning as they read the headlines, and it’s very disturbing to watch all of these scandals unfold,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), vice chairwoman of the House Republican conference.
Republicans appeared to settle on the IRS news as a first-among-equals in the trio of scandals. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), who raised questions about the IRS’s scrutiny of conservative groups in 2012, said the agency had been “caught red-handed.”
“I can tell you right now, this culture of rot and abuse at the IRS is going to be rooted out,” said Boustany, chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday the Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation into the matter.
The unfolding controversies overshadowed the Republican jobs message on Wednesday, as the leadership tried to signal a two-pronged focus on oversight of the administration and efforts to boost the economy. The House GOP will vote again on Thursday to repeal President Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, which Republicans say is hurting the economy.
Inside the closed-door conference meeting, Republicans congratulated Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, for his efforts to expose malfeasance in the administration, particularly on the Benghazi matter. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said there were “a few ‘atta-boys’ for Issa and his group.”