House Majority Leader Eric Cantor blasted the IRS' and the White House's handling of the situation at a press briefing Tuesday morning, but he stopped short of using the inflammatory rhetoric employed by a fellow Republican over the weekend.
More specifically, the Virginia Republican declined to answer specific questions on whether he agreed with comments made by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in an interview on Sunday with CNN's Candy Crowley. Issa called President Barack Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, a "paid liar" and said the administration was "Nixonian" in the IRS' targeting of conservative groups.
Issa, in his capacity as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been one of the leaders in investigating the matter and has generally become one of the chief antagonists of the White House on Capitol Hill.
Cantor, however, signaled he would continue to let Issa claim ownership of that title.
"There’s been an abuse of trust on the part of this administration," Cantor offered. "The president continues to try to distance himself from his administration ... and he ... certainly has an obligation" to know what's going on.
"It is the Obama IRS," he said.
Cantor was also asked whether he agreed with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said in a Fox News interview on Monday that the IRS should be abolished. He demurred.
"If you take a poll, there are not a lot of Americans who are going to be in favor of the IRS," Cantor said. "What you've seen now is evidence of polices that have been promoted by this president and others in Washington ... that is not, I think, what most Republicans in Congress or most Americans want."
Cantor's decision to shy away from a clear endorsement or rejection of the comments could indicate that Issa might have gone too far in his indictments of the White House.
At his Tuesday morning press briefing an hour later, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., suggested that Issa's accusations could absolutely undermine his efforts.
"I think it was an outrageous statement, and he ought to apologize," Hoyer said of Issa's name-calling of Carney, "and he ought to retract that statement unless he has specific evidence of that which I don't believe he does.
"It was a reckless statement," Hoyer continued. "It indicates a real political bias ... and undermines his presentation as ... a judicious leader of oversight."