Officials who don’t exist can’t resign

Officials who don't exist can't resign
Officials who don't exist can't resign
Associated Press

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote an angry letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this morning.

“[I]t is clear the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people’s confidence under the current leadership. 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.”

I can understand the knee-jerk reaction that leads to an argument like this. There’s a serious controversy at an agency, so angry lawmakers demand that the head of that agency resign.

But in this case, there’s a problem with Rubio’s demand: there is no commissioner of the IRS, and as such, he/she can’t resign.

There was a commissioner, Douglas Shulman, who was appointed by the Bush/Cheney administration five years ago, and who was in charge when the agency began treating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status unfairly. It’s unlikely that a Republican deliberately targeted groups on the right for extra scrutiny.

But more to the point, Rubio’s demand is problematic given the fact that Shulman has already resigned, leaving the IRS last November. It’s tough for a guy to fall on his sword after he’s already packed up his stuff and gone home.

President Obama hasn’t even nominated his replacement, and if he had, Rubio and his colleagues likely would have filibustered his or her confirmation anyway.

There is an acting IRS commissioner, Steven T. Miller, and perhaps Rubio wants him to resign for the sake of resigning, but there’s no reason to think Miller was involved with the mistreatment of conservative groups.