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Tea party conservatives may never fully trust Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but the Kentucky Republican was talking about the dangers of limiting political speech long before the tea party movement existed.
An expansive view of the First Amendment when it comes to political speech has been a signature issue in McConnell’s Senate career. He led the crusade against the 2002 campaign finance overhaul championed by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin even after enactment, taking the case to the Supreme Court.
On the issue of the IRS targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny, McConnell’s world has collided with his critics’. It’s a situation that should work to McConnell’s benefit back home. On Thursday, he found himself flanked by tea-party-backed stalwart Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa as a featured speaker at a news conference outside the Capitol.
McConnell’s campaign apparatus promoted the appearance on social media as Democrats mocked it.
“Republicans including Senator McConnell hold a presser with the Tea Party today to make clear that the tiger has fully devoured the rider,” Senate Democratic leadership aide Adam Jentleson tweeted.
“These horror stories of the government attempting to quiet the voices of critics is apparently rather — rather rampant, and it’s interesting to note that the IRS apparently even gave to a left-wing group, ProPublica, information on one of the conservative groups before their tax status had even been established. This is runaway government at its worst. Who knows who they’ll target next,” McConnell said, noting he expected a full investigation on Capitol Hill. “The truth will come out. It always does.”
The hearings into the IRS matter kick off Friday in the House Ways and Means Committee, with the Senate Finance Committee jumping in early next week. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced the resignation of the acting IRS commissioner.
Speaking on the Senate floor a short time after the tea party media event, McConnell announced that Republicans on the Finance panel would ask the Treasury inspector general for tax administration to investigate improper disclosures of pending applications for not-for-profit tax status. That request came in a letter from ranking member Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and his GOP colleagues.