GOP lawmaker moves to force vote on IRS impeachment

GOP lawmaker moves to force vote on IRS impeachment
© Anne Wernikoff

Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingLobbying world Trump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress MORE (R-La.) on Tuesday moved to force a House vote this week on a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

With Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) at his side, Fleming gave notice on his “privileged resolution” to impeach Koskinen. The House will need to act on the measure no later than Thursday, since privileged resolutions have to be taken up within two legislative days once notice is given.

Fleming and other members of the House Freedom Caucus have been pressing for a vote on Koskinen’s impeachment for months. They argue that the commissioner impeded Congress’s investigation into the IRS’ scrutiny of Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.

Fleming said at a “Conversations with Conservatives” event on Tuesday that he expects the resolution to be considered on the floor late Thursday morning. 

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The House can vote on the substance of the bill, table the resolution or refer it to the House Judiciary Committee. The House GOP conference is expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the resolution.

Fleming first offered the resolution in July, after the Judiciary Committee held two hearings to examine Koskinen’s alleged misconduct but didn’t take any additional action and House GOP leadership did not schedule a floor vote

Freedom Caucus members are expected to give speeches on the House floor Wednesday evening in support of impeachment.

Impeaching Koskinen is an issue that has divided House Republicans. Several congressional Republicans have said that they would vote against impeachment because the resolution has not followed the normal process, which would involve an extensive review by the Judiciary Committee.

But while some Republicans are concerned that Koskinen hasn’t received due process, Fleming told reporters that “impeachment is the beginning of due process” and that Koskinen has testified before Congress in the past.

Fleming, who is running for Senate, has said that votes to table or refer the bill should be considered votes against impeachment.

“There’s different ways of saying no on this,” he told The Hill on Monday.

Freedom Caucus member Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said that holding a vote to refer or table the bill would be "punting."

Fleming said he hasn’t been counting votes and hasn’t told colleagues to do anything but “follow their conscience.” However, he added the evidence against Koskinen is so strong that lawmakers who vote against impeachment “would have to answer to their own constituents why they’re not willing to hold high-level officials accountable for their corrupt activities."

Koskinen, who became IRS commissioner after the targeting of conservative groups was revealed, has said that the allegations against him are without merit. He made his case last week before members of the centrist Tuesday Group and the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Democrats uniformly oppose impeaching Koskinen. Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, lambasted the Republicans pushing the impeachment vote, saying the resolution is baseless and promising unanimous Democratic opposition.

"It is absolutely unjustified on the facts, it is unjustified by any due process [and] it is unjustified in terms of personnel policy," Hoyer said Tuesday during a press briefing in the Capitol.

"In my view, the majority of Republicans — and I've talked to a lot of them — a majority of Republicans believe this is … not justified."

Hoyer said he won't know how the Democrats will counter the resolution until they've seen the Republicans' plan for bringing it up.

If the House votes to impeach Koskinen, he would Koskinen would be the first sub-cabinet official to be impeached. The House has only voted once to impeach an executive-branch official other than a president — William Belknap, secretary of war under Ulysses Grant — more than 100 years ago.

In order for Koskinen to be removed from office after being impeached, the Senate would need to vote to convict by a two-thirds majority, which is unlikely.

- Mike Lillis and Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.

- Updated at 4:07 p.m.