Policy

IRS, Obamacare Enter Farm Bill Debate

 

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Finance Committee isn't the only place in the Senate to watch for news about the ongoing controversy over selective review of conservative groups by the IRS.

Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking member Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, convened an oversight hearing Tuesday morning to review the IRS situation, one day after sending a lengthy letter seeking information and documents from outgoing acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.

But, the Senate being the Senate, there's also a good shot of seeing the IRS matter surface as part of the floor debate on the farm bill. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has already filed an amendment to block funding of the IRS for implementing the 2010 health care overhaul.

"I am deeply troubled that the IRS has been improperly targeting conservative groups. Public distrust in this agency is already at an all-time high, so providing the IRS with more power to enforce this flawed health care policy makes no sense," Heller said in a statement. "For these reasons, I have offered the 'IRS Accountability Act' as an amendment to the Farm bill. Simply put, right now, we can’t trust the IRS to do its job."

The Nevada Republican has the backing of several other GOP senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio floated his own IRS amendment during debate on the water resources bill that passed the Senate last week, but the chamber didn't vote on his proposal.

A senior Democratic aide indicated on Monday that Democrats could respond to an amendment like Heller's with a side-by-side amendment of their own on the IRS matter, no doubt aware of the public sentiment. As the Finance hearing got under way Tuesday, neither party offered kind words to the current and former IRS leaders in attendance.

"Americans expect the IRS to do its job without passion or prejudice. The IRS can't pick one group for closer examination and give others a free pass, but that is apparently what they did. As Adlai Stevenson said, the success of our government depends on the good judgments of so many," Baucus said in his opening statement. "It is clear that many at the IRS exercised poor judgment in this case. Today they'll have to answer for it."

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.