Republican lawmakers agreed Sept. 14 to delay a divisive impeachment vote for IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in exchange for his testimony under oath next week.
A select few House Republicans, particularly within the 40-member House Freedom Caucus, have been working all year to fire Koskinen for allegedly lying to Congress during its investigation of the IRS targeting scandal. With the blessing of party leaders, two Freedom Caucus members, Reps. John Fleming, R-La., and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., introduced a privileged resolution on Sept. 13 to force a vote regardless of whether they had the numbers to proceed.
With few legislative days left on the calendar, some Republicans have distanced themselves from impeachment talks, hoping to avoid a ruckus before election day. Congress also still needs to pass a spending bill before the end of the month or risk a government shutdown. Last night, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the Freedom Caucus chairman, compromised with the Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing Wednesday for lawmakers to probe Koskinen, hoping it will whip support to oust him.
“This hearing next week will give every American the opportunity to hear John Koskinen answer under oath why he misled Congress, allowed evidence pertinent to an investigation to be destroyed, and defied congressional subpoenas and preservation orders,” the caucus said in a statement. “It will also remove any lingering excuses for those who have been hesitant to proceed with this course of action.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he was not involved in negotiations but does not expect a vote on Koskinen’s status until after the November elections.
Hours later, Huelskamp told The Hill that’s false: He still plans to find a way to vote on impeaching Koskinen as early as next week.
Over the summer, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., held two hearings to look into IRS misconduct and explore impeaching its commissioner. The committee invited Koskinen to testify, but he declined.
Democrats on the committee have criticized the efforts to force an impeachment vote while Congress has other pressing matters to deal with.
“Instead of addressing serious issues facing Americans, like funding for Zika and the opioid crisis, House Republicans are wasting time grandstanding ahead of an election,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Congress has not taken a vote to impeach an appointed executive branch official since 1876.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, acknowledged to reporters some of his colleagues are hesitant to vote on impeachment—seeking more due process for a virtually unprecedented activity. He said he agrees Koskinen should have an opportunity to defend himself but criticized Republican leaders for not scheduling a time for him to testify.
The vitriol against the IRS reached a tipping point in 2013 when it became clear the agency was causing undue burden for conservative non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.
President Barack Obama acknowledged the misconduct but so far has not penalized anyone in the department. He appointed Koskinen to take over as IRS head at the end of 2013. Since then, Republicans have turned their frustration toward Koskinen for stonewalling the congressional investigation into the targeting scandal. Under Koskinen’s supervision, 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 emails vanished. GOP lawmakers contend Koskinen lied about their disappearance and refuses to take responsibility.
“No one, especially a high-ranking Washington official, should be above the law,” Huelskamp said. “It is time for Congress to do what it should have done long ago—hold someone in the Obama administration accountable.”
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: September 19, 2016