Oversight chairman offers resolution to censure IRS head

Greg Nash

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Wednesday introduced a resolution to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

“I view censure as a precursor to impeachment as it allows the House the opportunity to formally condemn Mr. Koskinen,” Chaffetz said in a news release.

He told reporters Wednesday that as he’s studied impeachment, “what you see are dozens of censure motions that were introduced.”

“Very few of those actually came to a vote, but it does seem like a natural progression and step toward impeachment,” Chaffetz said.

The censure resolution urges Koskinen to resign or be removed by President Obama. It also recommends that Koskinen be required to give up his government pension and other benefits.

The resolution was offered days before the House Judiciary Committee is set to hold its first of two scheduled hearings to examine Koskinen’s alleged misconduct concerning Congress’s investigation into allegations the IRS improperly targeted Tea Party groups. The Oversight Committee’s findings on Koskinen will be presented at the hearing, and Chaffetz introduced an impeachment resolution on Koskinen last fall.

“We’ll be prepared to make a presentation as to why we justify and think members should vote in favor of an impeachment,” Chaffetz told reporters.

Chaffetz said he wasn’t sure how long after the hearings a vote would be scheduled, but he would like to vote on the censure and impeachment resolutions “sooner rather than later.”

“There’s a lot more work that needs to be done to lay that foundation,” he said, noting that the House hasn’t impeached an executive branch official in more than 100 years. “There’s a lot of education we’re having to do with members about how this works, what the standard of proof is.”

Chaffetz said he doesn’t know where the entire Senate stands on ousting Koskinen, but he’s aware that some senators are in favor of ousting Koskinen.

“I don’t think there are many that are going to stand up and want to support the commissioner of the IRS,” he said.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus have been pushing for action on the impeachment resolution for months and recently told Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that if hearings were not held on Koskinen, they would force a floor vote on the issue.

Chaffetz said Congress cut the IRS’s budget and it didn’t affect Koskinen. Instead, the IRS “took it out on the American people,” he said.

“[Koskinen] was hired and brought in by the president to fix things,” Chaffetz said. “The IRS could not be worse than it is right now. We have terrible relations, he doesn’t do what he says he’s going to do and the agency is in chaos.” 

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday chastised Republicans, saying they have significantly reduced the IRS’s budget. He reiterated the Obama administration’s support for Koskinen.

“John Koskinen has assumed a very difficult task,” Earnest told reporters. “That task has been made only more difficult by the false accusations of Republicans, and by the continued insistence of Republicans to cut the budget for the IRS.”

After years of budget cuts, the IRS got a $290 million funding increase for the current fiscal year. However, the agency’s funding level this year is about $900 million lower than the level from six years ago.

Earnest said the cuts in funding have led to diminished customer service and have hampered the agency’s enforcement efforts. 

“To have Republicans come back and say that he’s not doing a very good job? It’s not on the level,” he added. “And if they spent half as much time trying to make sure that the IRS got the money that they needed to do their job as they do undermining the commissioner of the IRS, the American people would be better served.”

House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said that Republicans are engaging in “political witch hunts” instead of fully funding Zika prevention efforts, providing adequate resources to troops and helping residents of Flint, Mich., recover from the city’s water crisis.

“The Benghazi Committee, the Select Committee to attack women’s health, and now further personal attacks on the IRS Commissioner — these are all attempts to distract the American people from the fact that Republicans aren’t doing their job,” Levin said in a statement. “Republicans need to stop the political madness and get serious about doing the hard work of legislating.” 

Jordan Fabian contributed. 

-Updated at 4:30 p.m.

Tags Jason Chaffetz Paul Ryan

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