House GOP chairman introduces resolution to censure IRS head

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Posted: May 18, 2016 2:04 PM
House GOP chairman introduces resolution to censure IRS head

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top House Republican introduced an election-year resolution Wednesday censuring the IRS chief, marking the latest step in the GOP's war against the agency over its treatment of conservative organizations.

The four-page resolution calls for the resignation or firing of John Koskinen, claiming the commissioner has failed to cooperate with a congressional investigation of the agency. It accuses him of conduct "incompatible with his duties and inconsistent with the trust and confidence placed in him as an officer of the United States."

The measure by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is nonbinding, and would not force him from the job, even if the House were to approve it.

But the resolution voices the longtime hostility of many conservative groups and lawmakers toward the tax-collecting agency. Their enmity escalated in 2013 when the IRS conceded that it had subjected right-leaning tea party groups to excessive scrutiny when examining their applications for tax-exempt status.

Chaffetz proposed his measure a week before the House Judiciary Committee plans to begin hearings on whether to impeach Koskinen, as conservatives have demanded.

In a written statement, Chaffetz said he considers his resolution "a precursor to impeachment, as it allows the House the opportunity to formally condemn Mr. Koskinen."

President Barack Obama appointed Koskinen to take over the IRS in December 2013 after many top officials left the agency following the uproar.

Republicans have accused Koskinen of failing to provide congressional investigators with subpoenaed evidence, not testifying truthfully and not revealing to Congress that evidence important to the probe was missing.

Several congressional committees, including the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that Chaffetz leads, have investigated.

The IRS has disputed Republican allegations that Koskinen has been unhelpful, saying last year, "We have fully cooperated with all of the investigations."

Democrats have derided the GOP investigations as ungrounded partisan attacks aimed at stirring up conservative voters. Last year, the Justice Department ended a two-year investigation, saying no IRS official would face criminal charges.

"House Republican efforts to impeach or censure the IRS commissioner are exercises in partisanship and a total waste of time and money," Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on Chaffetz's committee, said Wednesday in a written statement. He said Republican investigations have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars "chasing false political conspiracy theories."

A flash point has been now-retired Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status.

In 2014, the IRS disclosed that it had lost an untold number of emails to and from Lerner that GOP congressional investigators were trying to acquire. The Justice Department said it found no evidence that Lerner or any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives.

IRS spokesman Dean Patterson did not immediately have an agency comment about Chaffetz's effort.

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Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.