House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has already promised investigations and hearings on the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups who had applied for tax-exempt status. Now, Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio, has announced legislation making it a crime for the IRS to discriminate based on political beliefs.
The bill aims to “prevent discriminatory misconduct against taxpayers by Federal officers and employees” by making it a crime to scrutinize individuals or groups based on political beliefs or political expressions. Under the bill, the penalties would be a $5000 fine, up to five years in prison, or both.
IRS employees are already banned from this type of discrimination, but, at worst, they can only be fired.
“Americans of all political beliefs have been rightly outraged by the revelation of the IRS’ efforts to target certain political organizations,” Turner said in a statement. ”The fact that this could occur with little to no corrective action against those who seek to silence their fellow citizens is unacceptable. That’s why I’m taking immediate action and introducing this bill.”
Turner’s bill is in response to revelations that the IRS broadly targeted conservative groups who were applying for tax-exempt status, including those with “tea party” or “patriot” in the name. Reportedly the IRS also broadened the criteria for the groups that it scrutinized, including at one point looking at groups that criticized “how the country is being run,” according to an IG report scheduled to be released this week.
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Tea Party favorite, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew calling on the IRS commissioner to resign. “[I]t is clear the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people’s confidence under the current leadership,” Rubio wrote. “I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner’s resignation, effectively immediately. No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public.”
A spokesman for Rubio told the Huffington Post that he was referring to the acting commissioner, Steven T. Miller, since President Obama has not yet nominated anyone to permanently fill the post. Douglas Shulman, who was appointed by George W. Bush in 2008, stepped down in November.