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ISTOOK: Congress must bully the IRS by cutting off its money until it cooperates
Question of the Day
As a congressman, I bullied the IRS and other agencies into doing their jobs whenever it was necessary.
It's time for this Congress to bully the Internal Revenue Service into cooperating and doing its job. That job includes providing Congress with the Lois Lerner emails. It includes an end of stonewalling investigations into how the IRS suppressed the Tea Party and other conservative groups. It includes removing any barriers to tracking a trail that might lead straight to the White House.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says it will take years to “respond” (not “comply”) with subpoenaes from congressional committees. It should take just as many years for Congress to fund his paycheck and those of everyone involved in the stonewalling, with similar delays of all their agency's pet projects.
It is insufficient for Congress to hold the IRS commissioner, Lois Lerner or anyone else in contempt because that still requires an enforcement progress that must go to court, where it can drag on for years. But cutting off funds from stonewalling officials has immediate impact.
For several years, I chaired the House Appropriations subcommittee that provided all the funding for the IRS as well as for many other core federal agencies. I didn't put up with nonsense like we've witnessed for months, dragging things out in worse slow motion than a television soap opera. Knowing the voters can no longer hold him accountable, President Obama has evolved from admitting a problem to claiming there's “not a smidgen” of corruption involving the IRS.
I had a method to deal with stonewalling. As a chairman, in my hearings, letters, phone calls and personal visits, I would cut to the bottom line: Bureaucratic delays would be met with a cut-off of funds. Additional tools were written into appropriations bills to create periodic mid-cycle checkpoints, so the appropriations committee had to approve periodic releases of contingent funds. We called the process “fencing.” It created a series of leverage points, rather than having leverage only once a year when spending bills were written.
My personal favorite example occurred when the General Services Administration was about to sign an exorbitant lease to provide a penthouse office for former President Bill Clinton, overlooking New York's Central Park. I held the purse strings of the GSA. I summoned the head of the GSA's Federal Building Service into my office and told him I was aware the Clinton lease was on his desk, ready to sign. However, if he approved it, I would treat all the agency's subsequent decisions as suspect — lacking in good judgment — and would govern their funding accordingly. The very next day, the GSA announced it would not approve the planned lease. Instead, Clinton ended up in Harlem, paying about a third of the price.
I played hardball with bureaucrats whenever it was necessary. That included the IRS, which right now needs to feel the heat from every person and leader in Congress. Taking years just to “respond” to Congress is contemptible.
No effort should be spared to combat the Obama administration's gutter tactics of trying to conceal its misdeeds. The public deserves no less. Justice deserves no less. And nobody should believe the absurd pretense that Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department is conducting any serious inquiry into the IRS scandal or any other politically-sensitive abuses involving the Obama White House.
Rescuing America from a descent into lawlessness is tough. It requires aggressiveness, not a slow-motion process. The IRS, White House and Obama administration have been given plenty of time to comply with congressional investigators; they have shown their true colors. They're not going to change; they must be pressured and shamed into obeying the law.
It's time to use Congress' power of the purse to deny routine appropriations to those who abuse taxpayers. This will mean a confrontation with President Barack Obama's protectors in the Senate and in the media. That fight should be engaged with gusto.
Former Rep. Ernest Istook hosts a daily talk radio show that can be heard at KZLS AM. Sign up for his free newsletter here.
About the Author
Ernest Istook spent 25 years in public office, including 14 years in Congress. He was rated one of the top 25 conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then was a Heritage Foundation fellow and a fellow at Harvard’s Insitute of Politics, where he led a study group on Propaganda in American Politics Today.
Now as a radio host and ...
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