IRS Chief Faces Likely Impeachment Vote in U.S. House Next Month

  • Conservative Republicans to force action after Sept. 6 return
  • Effort to oust tax agency’s Koskinen would be foiled in Senate

U.S. House conservatives are set to re-launch next month their effort to impeach Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, with or without Speaker Paul Ryan’s go-ahead.

Representative John Fleming says he and other conservatives are prepared to unilaterally force an impeachment vote within days after Congress returns to session on Sept. 6. “The only thing up in the air is whether it will be the first or second week we’re back,” the Louisiana Republican said in an interview.

Any action would be largely symbolic, because the effort would get blocked in the Senate if it passes the House. But Republicans remain angry at Koskinen, who they accuse of impeding an investigation into whether the tax agency improperly targeted conservative non-profits. Their allegations include failing to prevent the IRS from destroying evidence and providing false and misleading information to Congress.

A rogue impeachment effort on the House floor by conservatives dissolved last month as time ran out before Congress broke for the seven-week summer break. 

Ryan has neither threatened to block this re-do “nor given us any lecture or reason not to do it,” Fleming said in an interview. But the speaker, while himself critical of Koskinen, has shown reluctance to the idea of setting a modern-day precedent on impeaching cabinet officials.

Legislation pushed by conservatives to remove Koskinen hasn’t advanced to the House floor under the normal committee process, which Ryan says he prefers. And Ryan in July emphasized the entire House Republican conference must first settle on “an appropriate path” to addressing concerns about Koskinen when lawmakers return from break.

New Precedent

The House hasn’t impeached a cabinet official since the mid-1870s. Representative John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is among those who say that even if the House votes to impeach, the Senate wouldn’t provide a two-thirds votes to convict him at trial.

But the delay in House action has led conservatives, led by Fleming and other members of the House Freedom Caucus, to want to push ahead with their own plan, even without the backing of Ryan. 

In the interview, Fleming said that plan would involve re-filing a privileged resolution of impeachment on behalf of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. That means lawmakers would have two legislative days to vote on either impeaching Koskinen or tabling the measure.

That’s the same parliamentary maneuver he and Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas launched a day before Congress left for summer break, but didn’t have time to see through before the House broke for summer.

Four Articles

That resolution contained four separate articles of impeachment. Those included one accusing Koskinen of “engaging in a pattern of conduct showing he is unfit,” including false statements to Congress. The conservatives have accused the IRS under Koskinen’s watch of destroying 422 backup tapes containing potentially 24,000 e-mails relevant to the IRS targeting of conservative organizations. It all adds up to gross negligence, dereliction of duty, and violating the public trust, they say.

The Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, responded to the impeachment resolution last month with a statement calling the effort baseless and a distraction, adding that Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew continues to have full confidence in Koskinen.

Fleming, in the interview Wednesday, said such statements from the administration make it clear that it’s being left to Congress to deal with Koskinen.

“And this is not happening under the regular committee process,” he said.

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