A picture of Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Orrin H.
Republican UT

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  • Executive Session

    by Senator Orrin G. Hatch

    Posted on 2013-12-20

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    HATCH. Madam President, I wish to speak on the nomination of John Koskinen to be the next Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

    I want to say upfront that I support Mr. Koskinen's nomination as I believe he is a qualified candidate for this position and he deserves to be confirmed.

    However, I do have to say that I am disappointed in the process by which his nomination has been moved through the Senate, both in the Finance Committee and here on the floor. There is simply no reason for the Senate to rush to confirm Mr. Koskinen, and there is ample reason for us to take our time.

    It goes without saying that the IRS is one of the most powerful agencies in our government. It is both feared and loathed by people throughout the country. That being the case, it is absolutely essential that all the actions of the IRS and its leadership are above board.

    That is the only way for the agency to maintain its credibility.

    That is the only way an agency this powerful can maintain the trust of the American people.

    The American people should be able to trust that the IRS will enforce our Nation's tax laws without bias or prejudice. If that trust is broken, it damages the credibility of our entire government.

    Needless to say, over the last few years, the IRS hasn't done a good job of maintaining that trust and, as a result, it has eroded its own credibility.

    I am talking, of course, about the IRS political targeting scandal currently under investigation in the Finance Committee.

    If there is one thing that everyone should agree on, it is that the IRS should enforce the tax laws as they are written by Congress without consideration of political views. Sadly, it appears that, for a time, not everyone at the IRS shared that view.

    When this scandal first came to light, there was condemnation on all sides and everyone--regardless of party affiliation--wanted to get to the bottom of it.

    President Obama, for example, said ``I have got no patience with it, I will not tolerate it, and we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.'' Majority Leader Reid expressed similar views here on the floor, stating: ``I have full confidence in the ability of Senator Baucus and the Finance Committee to get to the bottom of this matter and recommend appropriate action.'' I hope that hasn't changed.

    I hope that the effort to rush Mr. Koskinen's nomination through the Senate is not part of an effort to sweep the Finance Committee's investigation under a rug and hope it disappears.

    As I said, there is no reason for us to move so quickly on this nomination.

    By waiting until our investigation has concluded, we can ensure that the next commissioner--presumably Mr. Koskinen--will begin their time with the benefit of the findings of the investigation. This would put him in a better position to fix the problems we have uncovered and to move the agency forward. In addition, it would ensure that he has the confidence of Members of both parties, which is vital with an agency of this size and stature.

    I am encouraged by Mr. Koskinen's commitment to continue the cooperation the Finance Committee has enjoyed so far in its investigation, as well as his commitment to working with Congress to fix the IRS's many problems.

    I plan on holding him to his promise.

    The confirmation of a new IRS Commissioner should not be a partisan issue.

    My fear is that, by including Mr. Koskinen in the current partisan fight over executive branch nominees, the Senate Democratic leadership is injecting partisanship where none should exist. This further undermines the IRS as an agency, not to mention Mr. Koskinen's future leadership of the agency.

    This is not a time that we should be undermining the IRS. In addition to restoring the agency's damaged credibility--which I believe should be the next commissioner's top priority--there are a number of other challenges facing this agency.

    For example, there is the IRS's significant role in the implementation of ObamaCare. As we have seen thus far, this presents a number of difficulties, both in terms of operation and enforcement.

    Both the IRS's inspector general and insurers throughout the country have questioned whether the agency is capable of administering the Affordable Care Act's premium subsidy program without massive amounts of fraud or improper payments.

    On top of that, there are the proposed IRS and Treasury regulations addressing the political activities of tax-exempt organizations. Given the IRS's recent problems in dealing with these types of organizations, many of us have reason to be skeptical that the agency can promulgate such rules without further bias or prejudice.

    On all these issues, Mr. Koskinen has committed to working with Congress, and with Members of both parties.

    I hope that he lives up to this commitment.

    It is essential that he does so, because, as I said, the IRS is an agency rife with problems, most of which are self-inflicted. These problems are not simply going to go away when a new Commissioner is confirmed, and they aren't going to be solved if the agency ignores the input and inquiries from Members of Congress.

    Once again, I support Mr. Koskinen's confirmation. I just wish we had gone a different route with regard to his nomination in the Senate.

    Nomination of Janet Yellen Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Madam President, today I wish to express my support for Vice Chairman Janet Yellen, nominee for Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

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