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McCarthy tries to revive interest in a faux controversy from 2013

Nearly a full decade later, Kevin McCarthy thinks he can still exploit a discredited IRS "scandal" to advance his ambitions. That's quite pitiful.


Kevin McCarthy’s scramble to become House speaker isn’t going especially well. He’s struggling to lock down votes from his own members; he’s facing an announced intra-party rival; and in private, some of the California Republican’s allies “are starting to doubt that McCarthy can survive the gauntlet needed to win the gavel.”

The incumbent GOP leader is nevertheless trying to doing everything he can think of to impress his party, including unveiling a lengthy blueprint this week on all of the investigations House Republicans can, and presumably will, launch in the next Congress:

Over the last two years of Democrats’ one-party rule in Washington, House Democrats have not lifted a finger to engage in oversight and accountability of the Biden administration’s actions and abuses of power. The American people responded this fall by electing a Republican majority in the House of Representatives to stand up for their interests. ... We will leave no stone unturned in order to deliver the accountability the American people deserve.

McCarthy, predictably, does not have a governing agenda, per se. He’s never taken much of an interest in ambitious legislating, so it’s not especially surprising to see him try to astound the House GOP conference with a list of investigations instead of a list of policy goals.

But it’s what McCarthy included on his partisan catalog that stood out as especially notable.

The Republican leader wants scrutiny of an “open border” that isn’t actually open. He’s concerned about technology companies “silencing Americans’ Free Speech,” which also isn’t happening. He expects to examine the Biden administration “targeting parents” as “domestic terrorists,” which is a made-up controversy that McCarthy has repeatedly lied about.

But the incumbent House minority leader also took a keen interest in the Internal Revenue Service:

“The Democrats have politicized the IRS at every turn ... [including] the Lois Lerner scandal where they intentionally targeted conservative leaning nonprofit organizations in an attempt to silence political speech they disagreed with.”

Yes, nearly a full decade after the Obama-era IRS “scandal” fell apart, McCarthy is still hoping to use it to advance his ambitions, which is rather sad.

There are two key elements to this to keep in mind. The first is that Democrats didn’t intentionally target conservative leaning nonprofit organizations in an attempt to silence political speech they disagreed with.

As regular readers may recall, the IRS “scandal” was all the rage in the spring of 2013. The Obama White House’s detractors and much of the Beltway media was quite certain the story was Watergate, Iran-Contra, Teapot Dome, Abscam, all rolled into one mega-controversy.

And then it all collapsed. Reality showed that the tax agency hadn’t singled out conservatives for unfair scrutiny; there was no conspiracy; and the news organizations that were obsessed with the story when it looked bad completely lost interest when it proved meaningless. The smoking gun was a water pistol, and the political world moved on past the discredited allegations.

Congressional Republicans held hearings, which offered no evidence of wrongdoing. The FBI launched its own probe, and federal law enforcement didn’t uncover anything, either. A federal prosecutor specifically concluded that Lois Lerner hadn’t done anything wrong. The entire faux-scandal, which more closely resembled a mirage than a legitimate controversy, died with a whimper.

Nearly 10 years later, McCarthy still thinks his own members are so easily confused that he can exploit this nonsense for his own gain.

But let’s also not overlook the other problem here: If the House GOP leader is genuinely interested in those who try to “politicize the IRS,” Donald Trump appears to have repeatedly demanded that he wanted the Internal Revenue Service to go after his perceived political enemies. We know this with some certainty because John Kelly, the former president’s longest serving White House chief of staff, confirmed on the record that these allegations are true.

This isn’t ancient history that’s easily forgotten; it’s news we learned literally last month. McCarthy is attacking Democrats for trying to weaponize the IRS just weeks after the public learned about Trump trying to weaponize the IRS.

Any chance the Republican leader might want to add this to his oversight list?