Conflict between Republicans in the House of Representatives and IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman may be escalating in the weeks ahead. Prompted by recent incidents of alleged IRS harassment of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status for the 2012 election, including individual tax audits of organizers, 63 GOP congressman led by Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04) sent a letter demanding an explanation. An April 27 American Thinker blog post provided a copy of the letter and highlighted remarks on the House floor by Congressman McClintock.
In an interview this week for American Thinker, McClintock reports no progress in the matter. He says it will obviously require increased pressure to stop the stonewalling:
The next step is to demand a formal investigation, which we are in the process of doing. I believe that it is the jurisdiction of Ways and Means. I would expect to have a letter prepared for circulation in the coming week, give it a week or two to circulate, and formally submit it to the leadership.
A serious question remains. Will the GOP leadership, which has been reluctant to embrace the Tea Party following the 2010 election, support opening another serious conflict with the Obama administration to help the movement? McClintock acknowledges individuals in the leadership, as well as some Republicans elected with Tea Party assistance, have not recently been enthusiastic movement supporters:
They love their support during an election, but they would just as soon distance themselves between elections. I find that rather ... regrettable
In the interview, McClintock dismissed concerns raised in an American Thinker blog by Jim Yardley complaining about only 63 of 242 House Republicans signing the letter to Shulman:
I would not assign any significance to that unless it was part off an overall pattern with an individual member. Most of the time, it's just because the letter has not been called to their attention.
You have to understand there are so many letters and requests circulating among the offices. It's like a fire hose. Just because members haven't signed on does not necessarily mean they are unsympathetic to the cause. You get a big stack of them every day. Some days you just never see them. Suddenly you get a call from a constituent: Why didn't you lend support to this bill or how come you didn't sign on to this letter? It may mean they just haven't seen it or focused on it.
Commissioner Shulman, in a March 22 hearing before the Ways and Means Committee, denied that his agency was targeting Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. However, extraordinary requests for donor and supporter names, meeting minutes, and speech transcripts continue. McClintock and dozens of other House Republicans stand willing to take on the Obama administration over this harassment issue. Over the next couple of months, we'll see how it plays out.