TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, September 16, 2016

The IRS Scandal, Day 1226

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial, The Impeachment Distraction: Koskinen and the IRS Deserve Rebuke, but Not If It Costs the Senate:

House Speaker Paul Ryan has managed to unite his fractious GOP caucus around some common campaign goals. So it’s a pity that two months from an election some House Members are driving an issue that could cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Louisiana Rep. John Fleming on Tuesday moved on a privileged resolution to force the House to vote as soon as Thursday to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The IRS chief has earned public opprobrium, but the timing of this effort could boomerang and end up making the IRS less accountable.

These columns have been out front in documenting Mr. Koskinen’s failures after he promised to clean up the IRS following its political targeting of conservative nonprofits. Mr. Koskinen has failed to be candid with Congress and defied subpoenas. Documents requested by Congress were destroyed on his watch. He’s done nothing to reform the agency and he has supported a new draft regulation, now in temporary abeyance, that would reinforce the agency’s political vetting.

The question is whether impeachment is the right remedy at the current political moment. The case for it is that Congress needs to reassert its own powers against a runaway executive branch. President Obama has diminished the power of the purse and won’t prosecute contempt citations against witnesses who refuse to testify on Capitol Hill. Impeachment is about all Congress has left.

The problem is that a trial is doomed to fail in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to convict. There are differing views on whether a House impeachment vote triggers an automatic Senate trial, but if it does this could require vulnerable GOP incumbents to stay in Washington at the height of the campaign. This would be a gift to Democrats trying to regain the majority. ...

No doubt many House Members genuinely believe Mr. Koskinen deserves impeachment, but other Republicans have legitimate doubts that his offenses rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” mentioned in the Constitution. An impeachment trial now will divide Republicans while uniting Democrats. Why take the risk when Mr. Koskinen is leaving office in a mere four months?

Congress needs to think seriously about how to reassert its powers no matter who wins the White House. But the reality is that a Senate Democratic majority would make that task impossible. Republicans should focus on re-electing their majorities in Congress as a check on the next President, instead of making self-defeating political gestures.

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Comments

Focusing on the corruption of Obama and Hillary would actually help win the election.

And worrying about Democrats being united is stupid, they are already united and there isn't anything that will motivate their hatred more than the existence of Trump. Impeaching Koskinen wouldn't have any effects on their motivation to vote or their unity.

Posted by: wodun | Sep 16, 2016 2:14:48 PM