Republican deal averts vote on impeaching head of IRS

Erica Werner
Associated Press

Washington — A last-minute deal between conservatives and GOP leaders in the House averted votes expected Thursday on a measure to impeach the commissioner of the IRS.

Instead, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will testify before Congress next week.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus celebrated the development as a victory, as conservatives had long pushed GOP leaders for impeachment hearings against Koskinen. They accuse him of obstructing a congressional investigation into the treatment of tea party groups seeking tax exemptions.

But the agreement canceling the votes came only after conservatives themselves predicted that their impeachment resolution was going to get sidelined by Democratic and Republican opposition Thursday. So instead they settled for a hearing next Wednesday, which would result in an impeachment vote only after the November presidential election, if ever.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin welcomed the resolution, telling journalists Thursday that it “was a good way to work things out.” Neither Ryan nor other House GOP leaders had embraced the impeachment push, but Ryan, who needs to maintain conservative support, had also avoided publicly criticizing the move.

“I think it’s a win-win for everybody,” said GOP Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, a ringleader of the impeachment effort. “And ultimately, we get the hearing, we get the information, and hopefully we’ll have more disclosures that tell us it’s important to go ahead and end this man’s tenure as head of the IRS.”

However, it would take only one aggrieved conservative to revive the impeachment on the House floor, so the deal does not definitively rule out a vote before the election.

Koskinen has disputed the allegations against him in private meetings with House Republicans in recent days, while in public,the agency insisted Wednesday that he “remains focused on the critical work needed for the nation’s tax system.”

Some Republicans, while critical of Koskinen’s conduct, questioned whether it amounted to the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” They worried about setting a bad precedent in pursuing the impeachment claim, especially just ahead of the election. The original conduct the House was investigating in connection with tea party groups happened before Koskinen’s tenure.