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IRS tea party scandal is 'un-American' and a 'travesty,' lawmakers fume

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are vowing to hold people accountable and explore legislative changes to ensure the IRS mends its ways after singling out tea party and other conservative groups.

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The matter is particularly galling to conservatives on the Hill because House Republicans showed concern over such targeting for more than a year – but had been stonewalled by the IRS until last Friday, when the head of its operations for tax-exempt organizations offered a mea culpa during a speech in Washington, D.C.

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House Republicans have been asking the IRS about extra review of conservative nonprofits since at least October 2011, according to documents provided by the House Ways and Means Committee. On four occasions since then, the IRS responded to House GOP requests for information with no reference to targeting of right-leaning organizations.

The IRS gave those reports to Congress even though some senior IRS officials were aware of the practice beginning in June 2011, according to a Reuters report reviewing an as-yet unreleased report from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax issues.

That report, in the works for about a year, is expected to be publicly released this week.

The specter of a government agency using its power to affect the political process, coupled with potential disregard for congressional oversight, had members of both parties fuming.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia called the IRS’s actions “unacceptable and un-American” and called for those involved to lose their jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio called the events a “travesty,” going on to say the IRS’s activity “echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history.”

In a letter to the Treasury secretary, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida called for Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to tender his resignation. President Obama has not offered a permanent replacement head for the IRS since the last permanent head, Douglas Shulman, stepped down at the end of his term last November.

“No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public,” Senator Rubio said in the letter.

Mr. Obama did not hint at any such shake-up in a news conference with reporters alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday. But the president did offer a hefty dose of personal indignation and a promise to take the forthcoming Treasury inspector general’s report to heart in figuring out how to prevent this from happening again.

“I can tell you that if you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous. It is contrary to our traditions. And people have to be held accountable, and it's got to be fixed. So we'll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are,” Obama said.

“But I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it,” he continued. “And we'll make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”

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