Harry Reid "troubled" by IRS scandal, Rubio and McConnell want resignations

Still not troubling to Harry Reid: A Senate leader using an unnamed source on someone’s private IRS documents to scurrilously suggest a public figure had paid no taxes for 20 years in order to slime a candidate of the opposition during an election year on the Senate floor.

But at least now we know he has a threshold for what’s “troubling” when it comes to using tax information as political punishment. Of course, his announcement of that threshold came after he had safely ascertained whether President Obama was going to be “troubled” by this development. Because principles:

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tweeted his dismay Monday with the IRS selectively targeting conservative non-profits for extra scrutiny, promising a Senate investigation into the agency’s actions.

“Very troubled by IRS’s possible breach of the public’s trust. Targeting any group based on its political stance is completely inappropriate,” Reid tweeted Monday afternoon. “Finance Chairman Max Baucus is looking into the IRS matter, and I will fully support his efforts,” he also wrote.

Reid’s tweet followed a press conference by President Obama, where he condemned the IRS’s actions as “outrageous” and “contrary to our traditions.”

Newsflash for both Obama and Reid, by the way: The IRS admitted to and apologized for an abuse of its power Friday whose target was conservative groups. We don’t have to use the words “possible” to describe the breach of trust or condition our “outrage” on whether or not the IRS did what it has already admitted to doing. We will certainly learn more facts from the Inspector General report about who and how exactly and in which ways officials deserves condemnation, but we can already jump to condemning.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell noticed the part where the IRS admitted wrongdoing and ask its acting director to take responsibility:

Republicans want heads to roll in the wake of revelations that the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately targeted conservative groups for further scrutiny, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is asking Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to begin with the current IRS Commissioner.

“It is clear the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people’s confidence under the current leadership,” Rubio wrote in a letter sent to Lew Monday. “Therefore, I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner’s resignation, effectively immediately. No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public.”

Rubio called the IRS’s actions “outrageous and seriously concerning,” and a “direct assault on our Constitution.”

McConnell to National Review:

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell tells National Review that Steven Miller, the acting head of the Internal Revenue Service, should step down. “He should resign,” the senator says.

“Believe me, if this was a Republican administration doing all this, the New York Times and Washington Post would be in absolute meltdown,” McConnell explains.

President Obama, he adds, shouldn’t escape blame: “They all take their cues from the tone expressed by the president, and he’s made it clear that this administration is perfectly willing to crack down on critics.”

To be fair, the Washington Post nailed this issue in its editorial this weekend, long before the White House and other Democrats realized this was a serious story. While Chuck Todd and National Journal, and the New York Times took the weekend to ponder how awesome this top-down political persecution was for Republicans because it gave them a story to push, WaPo opined on the actual wrongdoing at hand:

A BEDROCK principle of U.S. democracy is that the coercive powers of government are never used for partisan purpose. The law is blind to political viewpoint, and so are its enforcers, most especially the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Any violation of this principle threatens the trust and the voluntary cooperation of citizens upon which this democracy depends.

So it was appalling to learn Friday that the IRS had improperly targeted conservative groups for scrutiny. It was almost as disturbing that President Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have not personally apologized to the American people and promised a full investigation.

“Mistakes were made,” the agency said in a statement. IRS official Lois Lerner explained that staffers used a “shortcut” to sort through a large number of applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status, highlighting organizations with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. The IRS insisted emphatically that partisanship had nothing to do with it. However, it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.

If it was not partisanship, was it incompetence? Stupidity, on a breathtaking scale? At this point, the IRS has lost any standing to determine and report on what exactly happened. Certainly Congress will investigate, as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised. Mr. Obama also should guarantee an unimpeachably independent inquiry.

And, now come the investigations, according to McConnell

“This is just getting started,” he tells me. “Finally, people get it. This is a lot bigger than just one person. This a whole effort by the administration, across the board, to squelch their opponents, to shut them up, and, finally, they’ve done it in a way that will allow us to call attention to it nationwide.”

McConnell is open to the idea of a special prosecutor, but he hasn’t decided whether to ask for an appointment. “We will have to see how things develop,” he says. “But, finally, they overstepped in a way people can identify with. Everybody knows the power of the IRS, and it’s about time they, in effect, got caught in a way that the American public fully understands.”

McConnell makes a good point about the accessibility of this scandal. It’s clearly an abuse of power, it’s an admitted abuse of power, and it’s one everyone can understand, easily. That’s why you get Democrats and liberals suggesting a house-cleaning at IRS, too:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, thinks this politicized abuse of power by the IRS that happens to slam only her political adversaries is all the fault of the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, which makes so much free speech legal, how’s the IRS supposed to regulate it all??

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the IRS should be condemned for targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny in the run-up to last year’s elections, but she also blamed the Supreme Court for opening the door to broader political activity.

In the Citizens United decision, the court ruled 5-4 that corporations have First Amendment political rights and ruled that while they cannot contribute directly to candidates, they can run ads making their own views known.

Mrs. Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, said that has become a problem for the IRS in enforcing the laws.

“There needs to be more clarity in the law regarding the activities of tax-exempt organizations along with greater disclosure and transparency. We must overturn Citizens United, which has exacerbated the challenges posed by some of these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations,” she said.

She also called for “appropriate action, without any delay or hesitation” to make sure the IRS is playing fairly.

Tim Carney has an idea: Maybe the IRS shouldn’t be policing speech, huh?