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Previewing the fourth IRS hearing

Congress on Monday will hold its fourth hearing on the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, with a House Appropriations subcommittee doing the questioning this time around.

The Treasury Department’s inspector general released a report last month detailing the IRS controversy, which involved using inappropriate search criteria to single out certain tax-exemption applicants for special scrutiny.

Monday’s hearing will feature testimony from Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George and the IRS’s new acting commissioner Daniel Werfel, who served as controller of the Office of Management and Budget before taking on his new role.

Werfel’s presence could change the tenor of this hearing compared to the previous ones, since Werfel is new to the IRS and won’t be under scrutiny for any involvement in the targeting controversy.

Readers can follow Monday’s hearing live on Post Politics starting at 3 p.m. C-SPAN previewed the event in an interview with one of the Federal Eye reporters.

Previous hearings on the scandal took place last month with the House Oversight and Ways and Means committees, as well as with the Senate Finance committee. Those panels grilled former IRS commissioner Steven Miller over how the wrongdoing occurred and who was ultimately responsible.

The House Oversight committee also directed intense questioning toward Douglas Shulman, who headed the IRS during the targeting campaign and testified to Congress in 2012 that the agency was not singling out groups based on political ideology.

Lois Lerner, who played a lead role in the IRS’s tax-exemption division during the scandal, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid testimony after making a brief statement proclaiming her innocence during the House Oversight hearing.

At Monday’s hearing, the Ways and Means subcommittee is likely to focus on next steps since Werfel was not with the IRS while the agency used the controversial search criteria.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has ordered Werfel to implement all nine of the inspector general’s recommendations to prevent more inappropriate targeting and to hold accountable any individuals who are responsible. The congressional panel is likely to question Werfel about those efforts.

Already, Miller has resigned under pressure and Lerner has been placed on administrative leave. In addition, Sarah Hall Ingram, who headed the tax-exemption department during the scandal, is now in charge of the IRS unit that will implement certain aspects of President Obama’s health-care law.

At this point, the inspector general has the option of conducting a full-fledged investigation to determine whether the targeting campaign warrants prosecution or administrative actions. The IG report last month resulted from an audit, which merely identifies systemic problems and recommends corrective actions.

The Justice Department has promised to conduct an investigation to determine whether IRS employees or officials broke any laws.

Monday’s hearing will not mark the end of congressional hearings on this matter. A House Ways and Means subcommittee plans to hold another hearing on Tuesday to hear testimony from groups that were subjected to delays and extra scrutiny during the targeting campaign.

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail with news tips and other suggestions.

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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