In his opening statement before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee today, former acting IRS director Steve Miller apologized for the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, saying: "Partisanship has no place in the IRS."
After his opening statement, however, it became clear that Miller wasn’t really sorry. Repeatedly, he objected to committee members' use of the word "targeting" to describe the actions of the IRS, calling it "pejorative." He frequently defended his own actions, refusing to acknowledge that he did much of anything wrong and calling his agency's actions “horrible customer service.”
Eventually, when pushed on the matter by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Miller said, “I never said I didn’t do anything wrong” and “I should be held accountable, whether I was personally involved or not.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) repeatedly asked Miller who was responsible for the targeting of these groups. Miller repeatedly avoided answering, instead focusing on his objection to the word "targeting."
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) hammered Miller on his past testimony before the committee, saying Miller clearly misled the committee when he said that no targeting occurred when he already knew that it had. Miller vehemently denied misleading the committee, but kept saying variations on "Let's step back" to avoid explaining how his statement was not misleading.
Miller continued defending the IRS throughout the hearing, saying it is not corrupt and angering Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). “The subtext of that is that you’re saying ‘We’re just incompetent,’” Roskam said.
Several Democrats on the committee, including Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), showed more outrage over their allegation of past targeting of liberal groups under the Bush administration than of the current scandal that the IRS has admitted.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), blamed the Citizens United ruling for the targeting of conservative groups, saying it opened the floodgates to these groups and led to the IRS looking at them. He also went on to defend the IRS in relation to its access of Obamacare data, saying that it would only have enough information to decide if a person can get a subsidy for his insurance premium.
"It is not a fascist takeover that is going on here," McDermott said. "A couple of people making problems, that does not damage the organization in my view."
McDermott’s statements about Obamacare all rely on the trustworthiness of the IRS, which is clearly in question right now. Just because the IRS isn’t supposed to do something doesn’t mean it won’t, as the targeting scandal has shown all too clearly.
UPDATE: Here's the best video from the hearing today. First Rep. Mike Kelly blasting Miller and receiving cheers and applause, and then Rep. Paul Ryan doing what he does best.
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