President Obama defended the IRS Tuesday in an interview with “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, saying the tea party-targeting scandal was actually Congress’ fault for passing “a crummy law” and that the real problem is the agency doesn’t have enough money.
Mr. Obama, who has overseen a series of scandals at the IRS, the Veterans Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and now the Office of Personnel Management, was asked why government didn’t seem to be working on his watch.
But the president said he’s not to blame, using the IRS as an example of how what went wrong wasn’t his fault, and questioning whether tea party groups were ever targeted.
The IRS’ internal auditor concluded that the agency did, in fact, target conservative and tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny, and Mr. Obama’s own Justice Department is still conducting a criminal investigation into the targeting.
Mr. Obama, though, disputed that version Tuesday, according to the pool reporter traveling with the president.
Mr. Obama said Congress “passed a crummy law” that provided vague guidance to the people who worked at the IRS. And he said that employees implemented the law “poorly and stupidly.”
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The president went on to say that the “real scandal around the IRS is that they have been so poorly funded that they cannot go after these folks who are deliberately avoiding tax payments.”
Congress, prodded by Republican leaders, has sliced money from the IRS, saying it’s punishment for wasteful spending and for the targeting scandal.
But the IRS has said those cuts are now affecting its core services such as answering taxpayers’ phone calls during this year’s filing season.
Mr. Obama has asked for a major boost in funding for the IRS to get back on track for customer service and for stepping up investigations of taxpayers.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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