House Republicans launch effort to impeach IRS commissioner

House Republicans moved to impeach the IRS commissioner
(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The House Benghazi Committee may have gotten all the attention recently, but House Republicans want you to remember that they have more than one iron in the fire. On Tuesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced that he and 18 Republican colleagues had filed a motion to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The resolution, which accuses Koskinen of violating the public trust and misleading Congress about IRS targeting of conservative groups, will go next to the House Judiciary Committee.

Chaffetz and his committee Republicans filed their motion four days after the Justice Department closed its investigation into the IRS scandal — which involved scrutiny of mostly conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status — without filing criminal charges. Koskinen was appointed after the scandal broke, but Chaffetz accuses him of erasing backup tapes with emails from Lois Lerner, the central IRS figure targeted by Republicans. "Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress," Chaffetz said.

House Democrats opposed the impeachment resolution and called it politically motivated. There's no evidence that Koskinen defied Congress or misled the public, said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on Chaffetz's committee. The IRS has spent $20 million and 160,000 employee hours cooperating with investigations, including the "ridiculous" one by the House Oversight Committee, Cummings said, and "calling this resolution a 'stunt' or a 'joke' would be insulting to stunts and jokes." Impeachment of an agency head is a step above holding him or her in contempt, The Washington Post notes, calling it "highly unusual," perhaps last used against War Secretary William Belknap in 1876.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.