House GOP conservatives at odds with leadership on IRS scandal
The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of Republicans who identify with the Tea Party movement, may force a vote on the impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Republicans and allied conservative organizations have accused Koskinen of withholding information from Congress concerning the alleged targeting of conservative organizations and for poor job performance.
There are reports that the Freedom Caucus could offer the impeachment measure as soon as July 14 as a privileged resolution. That is the day that the House is set to adjourn for the summer recess and re-election campaigns. However, there are signs that the House leadership – including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) – is not on the same page.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) said today that the caucus is considering the impeachment resolution, among other options. However, the measure has yet to be committed into action.
Neither Speaker Ryan nor other members of the Republican leadership have endorsed the impeachment project. Ryan has expressed an interest in promoting his agenda for the Republicans, generally, before Election Day this November. Even so, GOP leadership has been conferring with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chairs the Freedom Caucus, according to media reports. But a source in the GOP leadership said leaders are unaware of such negotiations.
Republicans who are critical of IRS Commissioner Koskinen claim he held back information from Congress about IRS targeting of conservatives, and that he did not recover lost emails sent by IRS bureaucrats who are believed to be responsible for the targeting. Republicans, in general, are dissatisfied with the services provided by the IRS to citizens, who are left waiting for hours on hold when calling into the agency for assistance.
Koskinen famously locked horns in hearings with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That committee voted to censure Koskinen, while it introduced the impeachment resolution in 2015. "Commissioner Koskinen violated the public trust," said Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). "He failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch and the public was consistently misled."
The Republican leadership appears to have little stomach for taking on Koskinen, having instead tried to placate Tea Party conservatives by sending the issue to languish in the House Judiciary Committee, which has held two hearings but has not yet called for impeachment.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to censure Koskinen on July 7. Jordan told Budget & Tax News
of the Heartland Institute
that Koskinen’s actions and statements meet the standard for censure. “We think the standard is: dereliction of duty, gross negligence, and breach of public trust,” Jordan said. “Obviously, Mr. Koskinen has done just that. When it’s something of this magnitude, where documents are under two subpoenas and there have been three document preservation orders in place, and under his watch 422 backup tapes were destroyed containing potentially 24,000 e-mails, … that’s a breach of public trust and gross negligence.”
Jordan says Koskinen helped to conceal abuses of citizens' rights. “When the Founders put together the First Amendment—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, all those rights are extremely important—what they really focused on was your ability to speak,” Jordan said. “In particular, they weren’t focused on just any old speech, but they were focused on political speech: your right to criticize your government and not be harassed for it. But that’s exactly what the IRS did.”