IRS Faces House Grilling Over Abuses

During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Friday morning, ousted IRS head Steven Miller faced tough questions on the agency’s treatment of conservative non-profits since 2010. Choosing his words carefully, Miller apologized for the ‘foolish mistakes’ of the IRS and attributed its actions to a wayward pursuit of efficiency rather than partisan targeting.

Treasury inspector general for tax administration J. Russel George also testified before the committee; his findings on the scandal were released earlier this week just days after the first IRS official came clean about intrusive and additional reviews demanded of tea-party groups applying for tax-exempt status. That IG report used the word ‘targeting’ 16 times.

Miller took issue with the use of the word ‘targeting’ as it relates to the agency’s activities, claiming it was too ‘loaded’ a term to apply and that it ‘describes something that didn’t exist here.’ In that exchange with Republican representative Kevin Brady, the former acting commissioner went on to say that he could not identify any individuals within the IRS who drew up the criteria that directed agents to scrutinize tea-party groups.

Some of the most heated moments came during an exchange with Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.), who took Miller to task for his prior testimony to Congress, proving that the whole truth was then withheld.

Like others in recent days, this House committee hearing quickly devolved into partisan jousting, with Republicans looking to expand the inquiry into tax misdeeds nearer to the White House and Democrats attempting to contain the damage under the purview of a chief apparently appointed by President George W. Bush.

With two additional congressional hearings on the IRS misconduct already scheduled for next week, it has become clear that the scope of these congressional inquiries will extend far beyond the special scrutiny of the designated 298 conservative groups already singled out in the media.

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