WASHINGTON -- Republican congressional leaders, faced with an array of crises threatening to overwhelm the White House, appear to have singled out the targeting of conservative political groups by the IRS as the most fertile -- and politically advantageous -- to focus on.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) escalated the rhetoric Wednesday, telling reporters that his question “isn’t about who’s going to resign” over the controversy. “My question is, who’s going to jail?”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) questioned an inspector general’s report that said the problems stemmed from a poorly managed unit of the tax collecting agency in Cincinnati.
“It seems like, with each passing hour, the facts get more and more inconvenient for senior folks over at the IRS,” McConnell said. “All we’ve gotten from the IRS … is an attempt to scapegoat some folks out in Cincinnati and a laughable attempt to move past this whole issue.”
A Rasmussen Reports poll released Wednesday found that 82% of Republicans and 62% of unaffiliated likely voters think the IRS employees involved should be jailed or fired. Only 34% of Democrats feel that way. Among Democrats, 44% believe those involved should be formally reprimanded instead. The poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters on Monday and Tuesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Besides the fast-unfolding IRS scandal, the Obama administration is also dealing with the disclosure that the Justice Department secretly obtained phone records of journalists at the Associated Press as part of an investigation into the leak of classified details about a U.S. anti-terrorism operation.
House Republicans also are doggedly pursuing a probe into the administration’s response to a terrorist raid on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012.
Senate Republican leaders did not address the issue in their weekly news conference Tuesday.
Boehner said Wednesday morning that while he didn’t “want to prolong this any more than anyone else,” he wants “the truth” about what happened, and demanded the White House produce all emails related to the development of administration talking points about the raid.
Boehner denied that moves in the House to investigate the administration were about political gain. The Congress has two main responsibilities, he said: creating jobs and providing oversight of the executive branch.
“Whether it’s on the accountability side or on the jobs side, I’m going to do everything I can to try to get cooperation from them to advance both of our agendas,” he said.