On November 9, 2017, well into the Clinton or Trump Administration, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s term will expire. Koskinen, like FBI Director James Comey, is a Senate-confirmed executive who has a term of office making him independent of the president’s term. Koskinen will be lauded at that time as a man of integrity who not only kept the IRS on life support while under constant attack but who provided the necessary leadership and integrity to drive the agency forward to better serve taxpayers.
[ Issa Subpoenas Lois Lerner's Hard Drive for 'Lost' IRS Emails ] Impeachment of federal office holders is reserved for those who commit high crimes or misdemeanors. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives seems determined to have a go at Koskinen for reasons that are political and unworthy of impeachment. Chairman Jason Chaffetz of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform introduced an impeachment resolution against Koskinen. The House Judiciary Committee held hearings. This is an uncharacteristic misstep by the Paul Ryan House of Representatives. Koskinen is an exemplary public official. He should be getting an award for his service, not this type of attention. He has not done anything wrong personally. Impeachment in the absence of crimes or unethical behavior, none of which has occurred here, is a dangerous precedent that has not been part of the U.S. experience and could dissuade experienced, competent executives like Koskinen from accepting appointment to senior management positions within government. I recently defended a case in Austin, Texas, where a similar mean-spirited legislative impeachment proceeding rightly failed. Why is Koskinen singled out for this ‘honor?’ In essence, the claim is he failed to respond to lawfully issued congressional subpoenas and engaged in “a pattern of deception” in statements pertaining to the IRS production of emails, and failed to act with competence in overseeing the investigation into IRS’s treatment of conservative groups. The proponents’ case that Koskinen committed high crimes and misdemeanors depends upon issues he did not control. But Koskinen wasn’t even at the IRS when the scandal occurred, and he certainly was not leading the search for documents to respond to congressional requests. Republican members of Congress are rightfully upset that IRS employees in West Virginia magnetically erased hundreds of backup tapes in March 2014, destroying some of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails. While IRS recycling the backup tapes was dumb as a bag of hammers, Koskinen did not engage in that activity.
Can these alleged transgressions by the IRS be attributed to the new commissioner or rise to the level of an impeachable offense by him or contempt of Congress? Clearly, the answer is no. This is not a case where a senior government official directly or indirectly ordered that subordinates destroy evidence being sought through a Congressional subpoena. See the Nixon case. Nor is there any suggestion that Koskinen or any other senior IRS official was complicit in a scheme or plot to destroy evidence sought by the Oversight Committee. In the absence of such evidence, impeachment is not an appropriate remedy. The IRS reportedly has spent $20 million and 160,000 employee hours responding to investigations related to its ill-advised treatment of conservative groups. The agency has also provided Congress with millions of pages of documents. But spoliation of electronic files at the IRS through ineptitude is hardly a surprise — it happens every day at major corporations as well. The inherently personal attack on Koskinen is wholly unfounded. It simply does not square with Koskinen’s well-deserved reputation for candor, competence, and achievement over five decades in government and the private sector.
Let’s get a grip: Commissioner Koskinen has previously served as Deputy Mayor of the District of Columbia; Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget; Chairman of the President’s Council on Y2K; and interim CEO and later Chairman of Freddie Mac. He also worked on the turnaround of large, struggling enterprises, including Penn Central Transportation Company and the Teamsters Pension Fund.
[ IRS Commissioner Won't Testify at Impeachment Hearing ] Koskinen is what he appears to be — an exemplary public servant who heads an agency in disarray; while his 76-year-old peers are fishing or golfing. People with Koskinen’s skill-set are incredibly hard to find in public service. One can only hope that this impeachment resolution — and the personal nature of its assertions — won’t cause others to turn away from public service, depriving the government of the seasoned, competent executives that it desperately needs. Stephan M. Ryan has served as general counsel of the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee and is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and Deputy Counsel of the President’s Commission on Organized Crime. He has worked with IRS Commissioner Koskinen on cybersecurity issues. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.
TOKYO — President Barack Obama traveled to Japan this week for the G-7 summit and a landmark visit to Hiroshima, but the trip also came at a fragile time in the 70-year-old alliance between the two countries. The partnership finds itself under greater scrutiny amid the Asia-Pacific region’s shifting geopolitics.
In his first term, Obama outlined what he said would be the United States’ strategic pivot to Asia, home to four the top 10 U.S. trade partners and nearly two-thirds of global economic growth. It was to be a rebalancing of U.S. interests in the new century. And now, as China lays claim to disputed territory in the South China Sea and North Korea continues its nuclear weapon threats, the world will see if the U.S. rebalance is up to the challenge.
Central to the administration’s Asia-Pacific strategy is the U.S. alliance with Japan, one of the most important and least understood of all U.S. security relationships.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking a greater leadership role for his country in bolstering the post-World War II global order. That order is being challenged, particularly by China’s economic clout and the recent military saber-rattling of Russia.
[ Three Potential Missteps Awaiting Obama in Asia ]
HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima on Friday where he invoked the memory of “a flash of light and wall of fire” that destroyed the city during World War II.
At a moving ceremony at the city’s Peace Memorial Park, Obama told an audience that included survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing that the tragic events of that fateful day should never be forgotten.
“That memory allows us to fight complacency,” he said. “It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”
Obama’s landmark visit has inspired hope among many that it will lead to a more holistic teaching of World War II history and the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan.
[ Obama Deserves Credit for Visiting Hiroshima ]
The fact that presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump publicly dumped on him in the media hasn’t deterred embattled entrepreneur Martin Shkreli from endorsing him.
I haven't been called by the Trump camp. I support him vs. Hillary. He should find a VP candidate who is seasoned in politics, an ugly game.
— Martin Shkreli (@MartinShkreli) May 27, 2016
“I support him vs. Hillary,” Shkreli announced on social media Thursday evening.
[ Shkreli’s Latest Trolling Victim: Clinton ]
The show of support stumped those who recalled how Trump has treated Shkreli in the past.
“He looks like a spoiled brat to me,” the White House hopeful said of Shkreli late last summer while campaigning in South Carolina.
Who is to blame when a free-for-all amendment process causes a $37.4 billion spending bill to collapse on the House floor?
[ House Rejects Spending Bill After Gay Rights Measure Added ]
The inclination may be to point the finger at Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who assumed the House's top job in October promising to open up more bills to amendments from both sides of the aisle.
Ryan, R-Wis., blamed Democrats for circumstances around the second tumultuous vote in as many weeks on the House floor — this time the rare failure of an appropriations measure.
He said they "sabotaged" the process by pushing for adoption of an LGBT anti-discrimination amendment and then voted against the larger energy and water bill, which went down 112-305 with 175 Democrats and 130 Republicans voting no.
House Republicans at a conference meeting heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals shortly before the chamber voted Thursday morning to reject a spending bill that included an amendment barring LGBT discrimination.
Whether the freshman member who gave the prayer intended to condemn members of the LGBT community has left Republicans and Democrats deeply divided. What's certain is that the Energy-Water appropriations bill ( HR 5055 ) that came to the floor later in the morning was defeated on a resounding 112-305 vote, with a majority of the GOP caucus in opposition.
Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment it included from Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York that would prevent federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” read lines 28-32, which Allen also read, according to his office.
Randy Perkins wasn't even registered as a Democrat until he filed to run for Congress.
His campaign contributions have favored Republicans over Democrats 2-1.
He served on an advisory panel for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 2016 presidential campaign.
But now he has the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's support in his primary bid for Florida's 18th District .
He's running to fill the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy , who was a Republican until he ran for the House four years ago.
When Google honored a civil rights activist who supported a man convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey fired off a letter .
He asked Larry Page, CEO of the tech giant's parent company, Alphabet Inc., "why anyone would choose to defend a cold-blooded murderer ..." The sacrifices by law enforcement officers, "deserve to be honored and respected," he wrote.
Toomey’s letter might look like a momentary diversion as he prepares for re-election. But the first-term senator has instead made support for police officers central to his campaign against Democratic nominee Katie McGinty, evoking a strong law-and-order message that appears to praise the police as much as it targets their critics.
The senator has opposed measures to “de-militarize” the police that became popular after the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. He’s backed legislation to give prison guards pepper spray. And he’s made a point of telling voters about it, in Senate speeches , press releases, and TV ads.
“When rioters destroyed American cities, Pat Toomey stood strong with police,” says an ad released in March . “Toomey fought for better police equipment and benefits — and denounced the riots when others wouldn’t.”
A spending bill that funds watchdog agencies overseeing Wall Street will offer lawmakers one of their last opportunities to undercut President Barack Obama’s signature financial overhaul before the November elections.
Financial interests are pushing for big changes, championed mostly by Republicans, to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the $21.7 billion House Financial Services draft appropriations bill . The debate will also give Democrats a chance to rail against big financial firms and reinforce a popular campaign trail refrain.
In addition to the CFPB, which was authorized by Dodd-Frank, financial industry lobbyists say they’re pushing for changes to insurance regulations as well as to the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which monitors the stability of the financial system.
“This particular bill is a magnet for Wall Street’s lobbyists and Wall Street’s allies,” said Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets and a proponent of Dodd-Frank.
[ On Fifth Anniversary, Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations Appear to Be Here to Stay ]
A pro-abortion rights group is alleging that Republican senators are blocking the president's Supreme Court nominee over abortion, and is targeting four of them in new ads.
NARAL Pro-Choice America plans to devote $100,000 to radio and digital ads in four states criticizing Republican senators for not considering Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
The ads will focus on Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, and vulnerable GOP senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio. According to audio of the ads shared with CQ Roll Call, female NARAL members from those states reiterate the Democrats' "Do Your Job" mantra, and add that without hearings or a vote on Garland, the senators "will be stopping the highest court in the land from protecting our right when it matters most."
[ Democrats Play 'Trump Card' Over Court Standoff ]
The ads allege that the Republican decision to not hold hearings or a vote on Garland is really about limiting abortion rights. A NARAL spokesman pointed to Grassley's reported remarks to a pro-life group in April that the Supreme Court was "one justice away" from making partial-birth abortion a constitutional right.
Congress is heading out of town for Memorial Day recess, but lawmakers still haveplenty of items on theirto-do lists.Members on both sides of the aisle have pushed for action to address issues ranging from the Zika virus to authorizing defense programs. Withroughly two months worth of legislative days left in 2016, here's a look at what's going on with some of the top issues in Congress:"The mosquitos are coming" has been a frequent message in urging action on emergency funds to combat the Zika virus, which is spread through mosquitoes and has been proven to cause birth defects . In February, President Barack Obama requested that Congress allocate $1.9billion for the effort. The Senate approveda compromise $1.1billion measure on May 17, and the House approved a $622 million package the next day.House and Senate lawmakers will now go to conference on the appropriations measures that encompass the Zika packages, where Democrats and Republicans will have to find some consensus on how much should be spent to combat the virus, and whether and how that money shouldbe offset with cuts.[As Zika Risk Escalates, Congress Heads Out]
In just a few short weeks on Capitol Hill, Majid “Sal” Salahuddin drafted and garnered enough bipartisan support to pass his first piece of legislation.
The measure, which reinstates a reporting requirement for the Department of Veterans Affairs, was adopted as an amendment in the Senate’s version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending plan.
But Salahuddin is neither a sitting congressman nor a senator – he’s a 25-year Army veteran who is part of the Vet Voice fellowship program that aims to let post-9/11 service members lend their military experience to elected officials on the Hill. Citing a congressional report, Vet Voice said only 98 veterans from that period work among the more than 6,000 employees who work on the hill.
[ Getting a Job on Capitol Hill: For Veterans ] Salahuddin, 42, says veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan bring a unique skill set that adapts naturally to congressional work, given their interaction with locals and other workers during deployment.
“The 10-year war has made us become efficient in so many different things that we didn’t have to do in previous wars,” he said. "We didn’t have to negotiate contracts. We didn’t have to speak to tribes.”
Business, industry, transportation, labor and policy-making leaders from around the country came together during "Infrastructure Week" to discuss the many ways infrastructure affects our economy, quality of life, safety and communities. Amid talks of engineering, innovation and managing population growth, one question hung over every discussion: How will we actually pay for this?
As our nation grapples with its aging roadways, many political leaders have been unwilling to make hard decisions to find the right blend of financing for America’s roadways. Many states have recently raised state gas taxes because of Congress’ unwillingness to do so at the federal level. This is despite evidence that raising the gas tax is not a political death sentence. Last year, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association found that 95 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats who voted to increase their state gas taxes won re-election races.
With the federal gas tax stagnant, states need various highway funding solutions. They can consider registration fees, supplements from income, sales and property taxes, or even per-mile road usage charges. There is no silver bullet, no single right answer. But there is a wrong answer in funding transportation: putting tolls on roads that motorists currently use toll-free.
Pro-tolling arguments are the epitome of politicians passing the buck: “If you don’t use the road, you don’t pay for it.” In reality, tolling roads that currently don’t have tolls hurts budget-strapped states that need real solutions to repair and maintain existing interstate infrastructure, and it has real, negative consequences on businesses and families.
[ Carper Looks for Bipartisan Solution to Gas Tax ] While building new roads and paying for them with tolls has been appropriate and successful in some places, it’s a different situation on existing interstates. The federal government recognizes this and requires a federal exemption to do so. The opposition to and ill effects of such policy are well-documented. In the 18-year history of the pilot program allowing this exemption, not a single toll has been added to an existing interstate. The pilot program’s overwhelming failure shows it’s time to turn to more realistic, cost-effective and proven solutions — of which tolling is not. From a purely pragmatic perspective, building, staffing and maintaining toll facilities is inherently inefficient and takes many years to generate any net income. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the administrative, collection and enforcement costs of a typical toll facility are 33.5 percent of the revenue generated. Compare this to the academy’s finding that the administrative cost of the fuel tax is about 1% of revenue. Electronic toll collection is more efficient but still has upfront construction costs and can require 12 to 20 percent of the revenue collected for operation. That money should be going toward public infrastructure projects — not into tolling companies' pockets.
[ Ryan's First Test: The Highway Bill ] Aside from their inefficiency, tolls make roadways less safe by disrupting traffic patterns. Traffic diversion is a serious problem, crowding secondary roads near toll facilities. A 2013 study for the North Carolina Department of Transportation on the effects of tolls on Interstate 95 in the Tar Heel State predicted that tolls would divert up to 36 percent of traffic to alternate routes. This would contribute to delays, traffic accidents, and accelerated deterioration of smaller secondary roads not built for such high use. Congestion caused by toll diversion also delays response times for emergency personnel who rely on alternative routes to quickly get to and from accidents and emergencies, raising legitimate public safety concerns. Traffic diversion hurts local businesses that depend on interstate drivers for their income. The NCDOT study estimated that between 2014 and 2050, diversion around tolls on I-95 would cost approximately $1.1 billion dollars in revenue to businesses within a mile of the I-95 corridor in North Carolina. Tolls increase the cost of delivering goods and services, put local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and increase the cost of living for residents.
[ Gas Tax Hike Not Ruled Out by Inhofe ]
It’s important that the Interstate Highway System facilitate unrestricted commerce and travel throughout the country. Admittedly, today’s fuel tax revenues are not keeping pace with our highway transportation needs. Creative solutions must be explored, but tolls are by far the worst way to solve our transportation funding deficit. We can all agree that our beleaguered infrastructure needs help. But it must be the right kind of help. The data and facts are clear: Tolling hurts local economies and drives up costs for businesses and families. Policymakers should not settle for a detrimental financing option but pursue sustainable financing solutions that create economic growth and strengthen America’s future infrastructure. Kane is the spokesperson for the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, a national coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations that advocates for solving our growing transportation needs without tolling our existing interstates. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.