President Obama forced acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to resign Wednesday and said he will cooperate fully as he and Congress try to clean up the tax agency after it admitted targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny during last year’s campaign season.
Mr. Obama, who was criticized initially for not treating scandal seriously, said Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had asked Mr. Miller for his resignation and accepted it.
“It’s important to institute new leadership,” Mr. Obama said in a hastily arranged statement in the East Room of the White House. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has in all of our lives.”
At the time of the misconduct, however, Mr. Miller was not in charge of the agency, though he did hold a high-ranking position. His assignment as “acting commissioner” was scheduled to end in early June anyway.
The move is unlikely to quiet critics on Capitol Hill, where earlier in the day House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said firings would not be enough to clean up the mess.
“Who’s going to go to jail over this?” Mr. Boehner said.
According to news reports, investigators are considering whether the IRS case includes violations of the Hatch Act, a criminal law that limits political activities by career civil servants.
“There are still far too many unanswered questions and until we know what truly happened, we cannot fully fix what is wrong,” he said.
Members of the House and the Senate also are talking about myriad legislation fixes, meaning the issue will remain a hot topic on Capitol Hill for months.
Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, introduced a bill Wednesday that would prohibit the IRS from receiving any funding under Mr. Obama’s health care law, major parts of which it is supposed to enforce.
A day earlier, Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, proposed legislation that would prohibit the IRS from developing discriminatory methods for organizations under, or applying for, tax-exempt status because of ideologies expressed in the organizations’ names or purposes.
According to a USA Today review of IRS data, at the same time conservative and tea party groups were waiting years, or are still waiting, to get certified as nonprofit educational groups, such liberal groups as Bus for Progress and Progress Florida consistently won approval in a matter of months.
Over the past several days, numerous conservative and libertarian groups, including Americans for Prosperity, Christian Voices for Life and the National Organization for Marriage, have publicly charged that their tax-exempt status was delayed or that they were otherwise harassed by the IRS.