(Bloomberg) A House committee plans to vote Wednesday on whether to censure Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen over Republican claims that he obstructed an investigation into whether his agency targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The action by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee comes before a planned June 22 hearing by the House Judiciary Committee about a resolution to impeach Koskinen. House Republican leaders have not promised floor votes on the proposals, and neither effort is expected to move through the Senate.
Censures of administration officials are rare—and would have no practical consequences—but Koskinen isn’t the only member of President Barack Obama’s administration to face stringent action in the Republican-led House. In 2012, then-Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by the full House in a dispute over providing documents related to a botched operation to track gun smuggling.
House Republicans’ decision now to target the head of an agency, and not a cabinet official, shows a willingness to reach more deeply into the Democratic administration.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Oversight committee, is leading the effort to censure Koskinen, saying the commissioner failed to respond to congressional subpoenas. The resolution calls on Koskinen to resign or for Obama to dismiss him.
Tea Party Groups
Koskinen took over the IRS in 2013 after a scandal in which the agency said it improperly gave scrutiny to conservative Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. He informed Congress in June 2014 that 30,000 e-mails from a key IRS official, Lois Lerner, couldn’t be found. He also said he had learned months earlier that there was a problem with Lerner’s computer.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general later reported that it had recovered many of Lerner’s e-mails.
After the Justice Department notified Congress in October 2015 that it wouldn’t charge Lerner or others involved in the matter, Chaffetz of Utah introduced a resolution to impeach the IRS commissioner. In May, he followed up with the censure resolution.
At a Judiciary Committee hearing in May, ranking Democrat John Conyers of Michigan said the proposed articles of impeachment “have been debunked” and face “stiff bipartisan opposition in the House and even worse odds” in a Senate trial. Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah has said he doesn’t support impeachment.
The top Democrat on Chaffetz’s panel, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, earlier this week denounced the oversight panel’s plan to advance the censure resolution before the House Judiciary hearing.
“We have no idea why Chairman Chaffetz is rushing forward with his own vote, but this process is totally backwards,” Cummings said in a prepared statement. “The Republican inspector general found absolutely no evidence that anyone at the IRS targeted any conservative groups for political reasons, and no evidence that Commissioner Koskinen obstructed the investigation.”
Koskinen, a former chairman of Freddie Mac and deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was confirmed by the Senate to lead the IRS in December 2013 on a 59-36 vote.
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