A group of House conservatives is pushing to cut off bonuses for the Internal Revenue Service division that targeted advocacy groups during the past two election cycles based on their names and policy positions.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and six other Republican lawmakers wrote to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on April 2 requesting that the next general spending bill prohibit bonuses to the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division, which carried out the agency’s screening efforts.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Mich. – Melina Mara/Washington Post.)

The lawmakers also criticized an IRS decision in February to reinstate performance awards for IRS employees. Agency-wide payouts for work in fiscal 2013 are expected to total $62.5 million in 2014, compared to $89.1 million for fiscal 2012, according to the IRS.

“It sends the wrong message to the American people that Congress would allow these ‘performance awards’ to be doled out after the wrongdoing that occurred,” the letter said.

The IRS put a hold on bonuses in July because of government-wide budget cuts, saying the move would help avoid two additional days of furloughs during the so-called sequester. Agency spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said in February that the decision proved to be unpopular and that it “significantly affected employee morale.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a February announcement to employees that the reinstatement of fiscal 2013 bonuses allowed the agency to avoid litigation with the labor union that represents IRS workers. He added that the deal represented “an appropriate compromise in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”

The other Republican lawmakers who signed the letter were Reps. Dan Benishek (Mich.), Kerry Bentivolio (Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Pete Olson (Texas), Steve Stockman (Texas) and Walter Jones (N.C.).

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