Senate panel considers Obama’s nominee for IRS commissioner

President Obama’s pick to head the Internal Revenue Service testified before a Senate committee on Tuesday despite objections from the panel’s top Republican.

John Koskinen, nominee for IRS commissioner. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP). John Koskinen, nominee for IRS commissioner. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP).

Nominee John Koskinen, a former government official with experience leading private-sector organizations, is scheduled to appear for a follow-up hearing on Wednesday morning. The panel is not expected to vote, according to congressional aides.

MORE: Obama picks restructuring expert John Koskinen to head IRS

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, said he had hoped to delay the nomination proceedings until congressional investigators finish probing the IRS’s screening of advocacy groups during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.

The agency’s inspector general described those practices as inappropriate in a May report, noting that they largely affected conservative groups.

“I had hoped that the next commissioner would begin his time with the benefit of the findings of our investigation so that he would be in a better position to fix the problems we’ve uncovered and to move the agency forward with strong bipartisan support,” Hatch said.

The Republican’s wish partially came true Tuesday as a Senate vote forced the hearing to adjourn before lawmakers had questioned Koskinen.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) decided to postpone the remainder of the hearing until Wednesday after Republicans invoked a Senate rule that prohibits committees from meeting more than two hours after the full Senate has gone into session.

Koskinen oversaw the government’s preparations for Y2K and helped Freddie Mac out of its financial crisis around the start of Obama’s first term. He would replace acting IRS commissioner Daniel Werfel, who was appointed by Obama soon after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued its scathing report on IRS screening methods.

On Tuesday, Koskinen said he would “cooperate fully with the committee and its members as it seeks to bring this investigation to a close, providing you all of the information that you need.”

The IRS is trying to rebound from multiple controversies, including one involving a separate audit that revealed lavish spending by the agency on a conference in Anaheim, Calif.

“Most of my career has been spent helping large organizations in both the public and private sectors respond to significant financial and management challenges,” Koskinen said. “If confirmed, I look forward to leading the IRS as commissioner and to working with this committee to deal with the range of challenges that it confronts.”

Baucus said during his opening remarks that the IRS needs to restore the public’s trust, adding that the Obama administration has already proposed new standards for the treatment of advocacy groups.

MORE: New IRS rules add both clarity and confusion about the role of advocacy groups in politics

“We need to install new safeguards to ensure the mistakes identified in the inspector general’s report don’t happen again,” Baucus said. “Winning back the public’s trust will not happen overnight.”

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail with news tips and other suggestion.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · December 11, 2013