Rep. Jason Chaffetz is hedging his bets on getting John Koskinen kicked out of his Internal Revenue Service office.
Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been seeking the impeachment of the Internal Revenue Service commissioner for almost a year. That could be closer to happening after two upcoming House Judiciary Committee hearings (the first is set for May 24; the other sometime in June) on how Koskinen has been doing his job.
But just in case this latest impeachment effort bogs down, Chaffetz also has introduced H.R. 737, a resolution to formally censure the IRS chief. It seeks Koskinen's resignation or removal from his IRS commissioner post, along with the forfeiture of his pension.
Added disapproval: "Censure affords Congress additional consequences to consider in identifying appropriate penalties for the Commissioner's misdeeds," Chaffetz said in a statement announcing the resolution. "I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to hold Mr. Koskinen responsible for his offenses toward Congress and toward the American people."
However, Chaffetz insists this latest move against Koskinen isn't a replacement for what he hopes will be the IRS chief's eventual condemnation and dismissal. "I view censure as a precursor to impeachment," Chaffetz added.
Why Koskinen should go: Chaffetz's statement listed some of the reasons he and his Republican colleagues think Koskinen warrants Congressional censure. They include:
Failure to comply with a subpoena resulting in destruction of key evidence
Specifically, Chaffetz et al, say Koskinen failed to locate and preserve IRS records in accordance with a congressional subpoena and an internal preservation order where 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner’s emails. Lerner was head of the IRS Exempt Organizations division during the time the agency used targeting methods, including against Tea Party aligned groups, in determining whether organizations were granted tax-exempt status.
Failure to testify truthfully under oath and provided false and misleading information
Chaffetz contends that Koskinen falsely testified the IRS turned over all emails relevant to the congressional investigation, including all of Lerner's emails. He also charges that the commissioner falsely testified emails were unrecoverable once the agency realized some of Lerner's emails were missing.
Failure to notify Congress key evidence was missing
Koskinen opponents also charge that he waited two months before notifying Congress that Lerner's emails were missing.
Democratic disagree: Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, and his Democratic colleagues take a dim view of the latest GOP moves against Koskinen, calling them a part of continuing "political witch hunts."
Levin said in his own statement following the censure measure's introduction that the Republican focus on the IRS is at the expense of "taking real action on critical issues that involve the security and well-being of Americans, like fully funding the Zika prevention efforts, or providing our troops with adequate resources to keep us safe, or helping the people of Flint regain access to safe drinking water, or considering a budget that meets the needs of the American people."
The Koskinen censure/impeachment efforts, along with the attacks on Planned Parenthood and the Benghazi Select Committee, "are all attempts to distract the American people from the fact that Republicans aren't doing their job," Levin said. "Republicans need to stop the political madness and get serious about doing the hard work of legislating."
Why double down on the IRS? Tax law doesn't allow for double-dipping when it comes to claiming tax breaks. Things are different, however, for the IRS commissioner on Capitol Hill.
Other than just piling on Koskinen, some wonder about why Chaffetz is taking the extra step of censure since the House Judiciary Committee already will hear testimony, both from Oversight panel members as well as Koskinen himself, in what is seen as a prelude to possible impeachment.
The censure option offers a quicker, simpler way to express displeasure with Koskinen, according to Indiana University law professor Charles Gardner Geyh. While impeachment requires a majority vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate, Chaffetz's House censure resolution only need a majority vote in that chamber.
Plus, if the censure effort gets traction, it could put added pressure on the president to ask for Koskinen's resignation, Geyh told Tax Notes.
Basically, though, censure is more of a political move. It is, says Geyh, the moral equivalent of Congress saying "Bad official! Bad official!"
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