With the IRS embroiled in a scandal about undue scrutiny of conservative groups, the agency lacks a Senate-confirmed commissioner.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that work is under way to change that, but he dismissed calls to force out the acting head in the meantime.
“My Republican counterpart said today that he thought the IRS commissioner should resign. The person who was working on this at the time it happened was a Republican appointee during the Bush years,” Reid said, in reference to former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, whose term ended in November.
The IRS commissioner serves a five-year term following nomination by the president and with the consent of the Senate. Steven Miller became acting commissioner because there’s not even been a nominee to replace Shulman.
Senate aides suggested that bringing in an outsider might be one way for President Barack Obama to help address the situation with the IRS, where IRS employees improperly targeted tea-party-affiliated groups for an extra layer of review in their applications for 501(c)(4) not-for-profit tax status.
“The man acting now is temporary. He’s acting. And there’s work being done now to get a permanent person there,” Reid said. “To have some temporary guy resign — his name is Miller — as far as I know he’s done a good job. He’s going to meet with me in the next few days. I look forward to meeting with him.”
Reid said that Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., would lead the Senate’s investigation into the matter, with hearings to follow the release of an inspector general report that’s expected within 10 days.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was among those calling for Miller’s resignation on Monday. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the Kentucky Republican took a swipe at the media for not covering what he called a slew of examples of efforts “targeted at silencing critics of the administration.”
“I think the American people get it because everyone understands what the IRS is, many people think the most powerful agency of the federal government with the ability to put people out of business,” McConnell said, arguing against giving the IRS more power through campaign finance legislation.
“We also know obviously that the statements that were made to members of Congress that the IRS was not targeting political speech it — the administration — disagreed with is absolutely false,” Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, added Tuesday.