McConnell to Oppose Confirmation of IRS Commissioner Nominee
Posted December 23, 2013
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the nomination of John Koskien to lead the IRS:
"Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service admitted responsibility for an incredible abuse of power.
"In the midst of an election season, it targeted and harassed Americans for the supposed crime of thinking differently.
"An agency with access to some of the most personal information of every taxpaying American betrayed their trust. And in doing so, it showed the lengths to which this administration will go to stifle those who dissent from its policies.
"All of this was, and remains, an outrage.
"It's the kind of thing we might expect from a banana republic or a third-world dictatorship, not the world's leading democracy. And the worst part is, we still don't know everything that happened - or if it's still going on.
"That's because the bipartisan investigation into all this still hasn't concluded yet.
"It's unclear to me how seriously the White House is taking this investigation. In many ways it seems to have treated the scandal more as a public relations problem to get past than a serious problem to solve.
"And now - get this - they just expect the elected representatives of the people to roll over and rubber stamp a new presidential nominee to head the IRS. They want Congress to forget what happened too, and just move on.
"They expect us to just clear the way tomorrow and let them ram through the President's new pick to run the IRS.
"Look: The American people deserve answers about how and why this targeting happened. They deserve justice too. And I will not be supporting any nominee to lead this agency until the American people get the answers they deserve.
"But, of course, the Democrats in charge of the Senate changed the rules a few weeks back in order to ensure they could get their way on nominees, no matter what the American people think. It's the same kind of attitude we've seen on the NDAA bill too, where the Majority Leader prevented other members from offering amendments.
"They'll just do what they want - even if it means breaking the rules.
"So, if John Koskinen does find himself confirmed tomorrow, I want him to know a few things.
"First of all, he should understand that I don't hold any animus toward him personally.
"Under different circumstances, I might very well have been able to support him.
"We had a good conversation when we met recently to discuss his nomination.
"But he's also someone I'll be keeping a close watch on, as will the other members of my conference. As will the American people. Because big challenges lie ahead for the next IRS Commissioner, whoever he or she may be.
"We expect the next IRS Commissioner to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation into this scandal.
"We expect whoever is eventually confirmed to hold those who broke or bent the rules accountable.
"We expect the next Commissioner to fairly implement the laws that he or she is charged with executing.
"To his credit, Mr. Koskinen has assured me he agrees with me on a topic I feel strongly about - that the IRS should stay out of regulating political speech. He told me so himself. And I was pleased to hear it.
"And so were he to become Commissioner, I'd expect him to oppose the extremely misguided proposed IRS rule that aims to overturn more than 50 years of settled law and practice by unfairly targeting the speech of those who criticize the Administration while leaving its supporters untouched. This proposed rule, which redefines what 'social welfare' means in order to target certain groups that seek to educate the public, would end up penalizing federal, state, and local organizations for the supposed 'crime' of providing information - much of it non-partisan or bipartisan.
"The goal is clear: to make it easier to push through the back door what Congressional Democrats have been unable to pass through the front door - discriminatory policies that seek to silence those who dare oppose them.
"It's just the latest in a long and troubling pattern of Chicago-style tactics under this administration. And it's exactly the kind of political meddling that the next Commissioner needs to ensure never happens again.
"Let's not forget: the IRS should be a boring place, an impartial agency of tax collectors, not the Vanguard of the Left.
"The next Commissioner needs to see to it that the organization finally returns to its mission.
"And he or she needs to root out those who would have the IRS target Americans for the way they think.
"Lastly, as I've told Mr. Koskinen, I'm deeply concerned about the IRS' role in implementing Obamacare.
"The fact of the matter is, Obamacare represents a dramatic expansion of the use of the tax code to pick winners and losers. It gives the agency broad new responsibilities for enforcing Obamacare's most onerous mandates, and to hand out nearly a trillion dollars in taxpayer subsidies. And in order to do all this, it will need to know who has insurance, penalize those who don't, and determine who's eligible for subsidies and how much they ought to receive - something that the agency has a very troubled history in doing with other programs.
"And if they get any of that wrong, they'll need to come back and repossess subsidies after the fact too.
"In my view, the IRS doesn't have any business snooping even further into the lives of our constituents - especially at a time when it's already under a cloud of scandal. It's just one of the many reasons I opposed Obamacare in the first place, and why I continue to oppose it.
"So if Mr. Koskinen is to become Commissioner, then - at a minimum - I expect him to hold the agency to the highest standards when it comes to protecting the privacy of the people we represent.
"I expect him to provide regular, transparent updates to Congress on the status of implementation, and to let us know of any problems as soon as they arise.
"The last thing we need is for the IRS to compound the pain it and Obamacare have already inflicted upon the American people by allowing fraud and further mistreatment to happen under its watch.
"The IRS has done a lot to lose the trust of the American people. It will need to do a lot more to regain it.
"Following the advice I just laid out would put the IRS on a better path. And, if Mr. Koskinen ends up becoming the next Commissioner, that advice will form the criteria upon which his performance will be judged."
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