The House Judiciary Committee has agreed to hold a Sept. 21 hearing to debate whether to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, delaying an effort by the House Freedom Caucus to force a floor vote on the matter Thursday.
A GOP conference meeting scheduled for Thursday morning, during which members were planning to discuss an impeachment resolution, is still on, a conference spokesman said.
"This hearing next week will give every American the opportunity to hear John Koskinen answer under oath why he misled Congress, allowed evidence pertinent to an investigation to be destroyed, and defied congressional subpoenas and preservation orders," the Freedom Caucus said in a statement. "It will also remove any lingering excuses for those who have been hesitant to proceed with this course of action."
A caucus spokeswoman said that while the hearing will delay the floor vote, the group agreed to the terms since having Koskinen under oath for an impeachment hearing has always been a goal of Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio.
"This puts all members on the record for or against impeachment after hearing him under oath," the spokeswoman said, indicating that either the Judiciary Committee or the Freedom Caucus will move forward with a vote after the hearing.
The Judiciary Committee confirmed Wednesday that it will hold a hearing to consider the articles of impeachment filed against Koskinen and that the IRS commissioner will be the sole witness. Koskinen was invited to testify at a hearing the panel held on his alleged misconduct in May but declined, saying he didn't have time to prepare after a business trip.
At the May hearing, Oversight Committee members who had filed the impeachment resolution argued that Koskinen destroyed evidence related to the IRS handling of applications from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, failed to comply with a congressional subpoena to turn over the evidence and made false statements to Congress under oath.
The panel held a second hearing in June in which outside experts discussed whether further congressional action was warranted, but did not take action after that.
The Freedom Caucus said in its statement that impeaching Koskinen will give Congress an opportunity to show that it works for and answers to the American people, who caucus members say are frustrated that "the powerful and politically connected" have been held to different standards than ordinary citizens.
Because House leaders would not commit to a vote on the impeachment resolution, Freedom Caucus members decided to offer a privileged motion to force a floor vote on the matter. Louisiana Rep. John Fleming offered notice on the House floor Tuesday of his intent to file the resolution, ensuring that it could be called up for a vote within two legislative days.
Fleming said that he's happy his resolution is leading to a formal impeachment hearing on Koskinen.
"We've pressured leadership to move forward with regular order on this issue," Fleming said in a statement. "However, if regular order is not followed through with, we still reserve the right to bring up a privileged resolution again in November and go directly to a vote."