By Ginger Gibson
Bipartisan calls for action echoed through Congress on Monday in response to an admission Friday by an Internal Revenue Service official that conservative groups had been targeted for additional scrutiny.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised swift action once a report from the inspector general is released later this week. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for the acting IRS commissioner to resign.
"As soon as we have the report, the Senate will quickly take appropriate action," Reid said Monday afternoon on the Senate floor. "We need to get to the bottom of what happened, and the inspector general will get to the bottom."
"These allegations are very troubling," he added.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) pledged to hold hearings on the issue.
"The American people have questions for the IRS, and I intend to get answers," the Montana Democrat said. "The IRS will now be the ones put under additional scrutiny."
Baucus said the agency should conduct its job "without passion or prejudice."
"We need to get to the bottom of what happened here," Baucus said. "I want to see all the facts. We need to know who knew what and exactly what mistakes were made."
On Friday, an IRS official admitted that about 75 conservative groups had been targeted for scrutiny if either "tea party" or "patriots" appeared in their paperwork. On Monday, it was revealed that groups that addressed the nation's debt were also targeted.
The targeting appeared to have been initiated by the Cincinnati office, prompting some conservatives to point out that the reviews were in a swing state.
Much of the anger came from lawmakers who are aligned with the tea party.
Even after President Barack Obama condemned the targeting, calling the accusations "outrageous," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said a full investigation should be conducted to determine if the president was involved.
"This is clearly an administration that is desperate if they're willing to do that," Huelskamp told POLITICO.
He said Obama has begun a pattern of refusing to shoulder the blame for administration errors.
"Things like this come up, and the president says he has nothing to do with them. Either he's incompetent or worse," Huelskamp said. "A good manager, a good administrator, a politician is going to take credit as well as responsibility for everything. Let's find out who is responsible and report back."
He added, "He can talk all he wants, but I think it's time for an investigation to find out who is responsible; call him out; and fire him."
Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) called the allegations "very troubling" but said he hopes they will lead to a broader discussion about the role of nonprofits in the Tax Code and the role of the IRS entirely, adding that for years, the agency has been treated as sacrosanct.
"How do we stop the use of powerful parts of the bureaucracy from becoming a political tool?" Schweikert told POLITICO.
He said the solution to preventing such targeting may be to increase the transparency of the process, allowing groups to follow their application through the system, know who is reviewing them and follow up with any problems.
"An open and sunshine approach is the best regulator," Schweikert said. "The IRS now needs much more transparency."
Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, respectively, issued a joint statement saying they will hold hearings on the IRS revelations.
The subcommittee was already examining whether the IRS was enforcing rules related to tax-exempt nonprofits and had planned a June hearing.
"We will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure the integrity of our political process and of enforcement efforts," the pair said in a statement.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) praised Baucus for calling hearings.
"We cannot have the federal government, with all its enormous power, attacking people and organizations who might hold a differing political or policy opinion from those in power," Johnson said.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was elected with tea party backing, said Americans of all political backgrounds are echoing the call for investigations.
"Concerns regarding this shameful abuse of power transcend partisan differences," he said in a statement. "This should not be dismissed as just another conflict between left and right. It is a conflict between the federal government and the American people."
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called for those responsible for the targeting to be fired.
"The actions of the IRS are unacceptable and un-American. Government agencies using their bureaucratic muscle to target Americans for their political beliefs cannot be tolerated," he said in a statement. "There must be a congressional investigation to determine how this happened and to prevent this from ever happening again."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) called the targeting by the IRS "deeply troubling."
"This was an outrageous abuse of power that goes against some of our nation's founding principles," she said in a statement. "The IRS cannot be in the business of singling out organizations based on their political beliefs, and the president should act quickly and decisively in holding those responsible for this abuse accountable."
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) echoed the calls for hearings.
"These appalling actions by the IRS are completely unacceptable," he said in a statement. "We need a quick but thorough investigation, and those who are found to have been responsible for this betrayal of the public trust should be fired."