Consider just how frustrating conducting oversight of the IRS must have been over the last two years. The previous leadership conducted politically motivated targeting of the opposition to the administration, and then the replacement leadership has done everything it can do to stonewall Congressional investigation of the agency. After two years of run-arounds, obstruction, and arrogance, House Oversight chair Jason Chaffetz has had enough. Today he called on Barack Obama to remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and find someone who will provide the transparency necessary for effective oversight:
The Republican chairman of a powerful House committee called for the removal of the IRS commissioner Monday, saying he has obstructed congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, sent a letter Monday to President Barack Obama, asking him to remove IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Chaffetz is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, which has been investigating the IRS for more than two years.
“Throughout his tenure, Commissioner Koskinen obstructed these congressional investigations,” Chaffetz wrote. “His obstruction takes the form of failure to comply with a congressional subpoena, failure to testify truthfully and failure to preserve and produce up to 24,000 emails relevant to the investigation.”
The Hill adds that Chaffetz and other Republicans may take this up themselves if Obama fails to act:
House Republicans will call on President Obama to fire IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Monday – or threaten to try and remove him themselves, congressional aides said. …
In a video released Monday, Oversight Republicans accused the IRS of doing a shoddy job of searching for Lerner’s missing emails, and suggested that Koskinen had misled Congress about the IRS’s efforts to find the emails. They also said that Koskinen might have misled Congress when he told lawmakers – before the IRS disclosed that Lerner’s emails were missing – that the agency would hand over all her documents.
“Their failings leave the American people in the dark about how their First Amendment rights were trampled upon,” the Oversight video said. “There must be accountability.”
They’re accusing Koskinen and the IRS of doing more than a “shoddy job.” They’re arguing that the IRS is actively blocking the probe into the targeting of conservative groups by Lois Lerner and the tax-exempt unit, and want the agency in the hands of those who understand Congress’ duty to check its vast power. The Republican majority on the House Oversight Committee explains all of the reasons why they have no confidence in Koskinen’s leadership at the IRS in the aforementioned video:
The impeachment option is a last resort, and not a terribly realistic one. So far the Democrats on the Oversight committee are offering the same kind of “witch hunt,” “nothing to see here” responses that they’ve used from Benghazi to Fast and Furious. The House can pass articles of impeachment by a simple majority vote — the Constitution presents no requirement for a supermajority — and the House Republican caucus is angry enough over the IRS targeting and years of lies and obfuscations that they may well close ranks and pass it on a party-line vote.
And that’s as far as it will likely go. Perhaps impeaching Koskinen will push him to tender his resignation. Only a handful of people have ever been impeached by the House — 19 by the count of the House itself since the founding of the country. Fifteen of those were federal judges, eight of whom got removed by the Senate with the requisite two-thirds vote as mandated by Congress. Only one appointed member of the executive branch has ever been impeached, Cabinet Secretary William Belknap in 1876, and the Senate did not convict and remove him. That’s rare enough that Koskinen may just decide to keep his name out of the history books and choose to spend more time with his family.
If he doesn’t back down, though, it seems very unlikely that Senate Democrats will play along with Senate Republicans on this. It’s in their interest to pretend that the IRS was never co-opted by the White House to go after its opponents, and they will follow the lead of ranking Oversight member Elijah Cummings in poo-pooing the entire exercise as a political vendetta. And, needless to say, even if the Senate does manage to remove Koskinen, Obama will still appoint his successor — and it hardly seems certain that Obama would appoint someone who will cooperate with Oversight.
The real problem in this scandal isn’t Koskinen, but the White House that’s directing his actions. Oversight might do better by continuing to demand Koskinen’s public testimony, and give a continuing example of the arrogance of the Obama administration. That might go farther toward Koskinen’s exit than an impeachment exercise.