A sign identifies the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington, D.C. on May 7, 2010.
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Republicans moving forward with IRS impeachment gambit

If you’re waiting for cooler heads to prevail, and for House Republicans to find some new partisan toy to play with, lower your expectations. Bloomberg Politics reports that GOP lawmakers are moving forward with their latest impeachment gambit today.
A House committee plans to vote Wednesday on whether to censure Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen over Republican claims that he obstructed an investigation into whether his agency targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The action by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee comes before a planned June 22 hearing by the House Judiciary Committee about a resolution to impeach Koskinen. House Republican leaders have not promised floor votes on the proposals, and neither effort is expected to move through the Senate.
These latest steps come on the heels of House Republicans touting a slick IRS conspiracy video, created by GOP officials on the House Oversight Committee, which Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) played for members during his recent testimony in support of impeachment.

Update: The Washington Post reported midday: “A divided House committee voted Wednesday to censure Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen.” The vote fell along party lines.

As for whether any of this is a justifiable use of congressional time and energy, it’s an awfully tough sell.
In case anyone’s forgotten, let’s circle back to our coverage from a month ago. The IRS “scandal” was discredited years ago – Koskinen wasn’t even at the tax agency when the imaginary controversy unfolded – and as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) documented in May, charges that Koskinen was part of some kind of after-the-fact cover-up don’t make any sense.
The impeachment push may succeed anyway, but not in its ultimate goal. House Republicans will likely get a simple majority to impeach Koskinen, but to remove Koskinen from office, they’ll need a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said that’s not going to happen. “[F]or the most part he’s been very cooperative with us,” the Utah Republican has conceded.
All of which raises the question of why in the world the far-right House majority is so desperate to pursue such an absurd course, targeting a dedicated public servant who’ll leave his post at the end of the year anyway. Indeed, the real scandal here is not Koskinen’s actions, but rather, the way in which House Republicans are conducting themselves.

I continue to believe many House Republicans want to impeach someone, anyone, just for the sake of being able to say they impeached someone. It appears GOP lawmakers have a partisan itch, and going through the motions on impeachment is their way of scratching it.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this partisan tantrum is indefensible. Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty – the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, Republicans want to impeach him, for reasons even they’ve struggled to explain.
As for the history, which Rachel has noted on the show, it’s been 140 years since Congress impeached an appointed executive branch official, but Congress has literally never impeached an executive branch official below the cabinet level.
Then again, Americans have arguably never seen a radicalized political party take control of the House and Senate comparable to today’s Republican majority.

A divided House committee voted Wednesday to censure Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen over Republicans’ claim that he obstructed their investigation into the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.