May 22, 2013

“This is something that sends chills down regular Americans’ spines.”
Chairman Tiberi, joined by Reps. Cotton, DeSantis, Joyce and Wagner, discusses the IRS scandal and why it could spur tax reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Ripon Society hosted a breakfast meeting yesterday morning with Ways & Means Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (OH-12) and four of the House Republican Majority’s newest Members, who discussed the growing scandal involving the IRS, what they are hearing about the matter from their constituents, and why it could spur action on an issue that all five Representatives support – tax reform.

“I was home over the weekend and had people talking to me about all those issues,” Tiberi stated, referring to Benghazi and some of the other recent scandals in the news. “But the IRS one, I’ll tell you -- it’s not like any other. It has Democrats, non-political independents, business owners, other individuals and people who don’t pay attention to government, kind of on their toes, because they know it can happen to them. Aside from what happened, this is something that sends chills down regular Americans’ spines.”

Tiberi, who serves as Chairman of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, also had words of praise for Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp and the hearing he convened on the matter this past Friday.

“Chairman Camp did a brilliant job last week in setting up the hearing and helping members focus on certain things,” the Ohio lawmaker said. “I think he’s right when he says that this actually gives us momentum for comprehensive tax reform. Democrats and Republicans on the committee both agree that the complexity of the code, and the discretion the IRS has, has in part led to this. It makes the argument that we need to give the IRS less discretion by simplifying the code.

“What better way for the Administration to try to get this scandal off the front page than by working with Republicans to get comprehensive tax reform done in a way that simplifies our code. Obviously there are still philosophical disagreements that we have to get through. But in an odd sort of way, we think we have the ability to get the administration to the table a little bit better than we did before.”

Joining Tiberi at The Ripon Society breakfast were four Members of the GOP freshmen class, including Reps. Ann Wagner (MO-2), David Joyce (OH-14), Ron DeSantis (FL-6), and Tom Cotton (AR-4), who shared his thoughts on the matter as well.

“As Pat mentioned,” Cotton stated, “the IRS scandal has probably made comprehensive tax reform more likely, rather than less likely. And the IRS scandal is a big story. I don’t think it’s just a story, though, for what it does to the President’s momentum or for stalling other of his agenda items with which we might not agree.” Rather, Cotton continued, he thought the story was significant because of “what it embodies about the modern state.”

“A government that is big enough to do anything for you is big enough to do anything to you and must know everything about you,” he declared. “It’s a scandal if political appointees in the IRS or the Treasury or the White House were directing IRS employees to do anything like what they did -- targeting Christian or Jewish or conservative groups for special harassment or intimidation or audits, or some of the other reports we’ve heard about auditing donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign.

“But it’s almost as much of a scandal that the IRS has so much power -- that it might not even need that kind of political direction. That the President’s own words -- targeting groups that are opposed to his agenda -- will give the signal to unaccountable, unelected officials within the IRS, who have a tax code that is so complicated and so burdensome and grants them so much discretion that they can then single out individual American citizens.

“We certainly have to get to the bottom of what happened. But I think we also need to take this opportunity to roll back a tax code that is too burdensome, and also to use it as a symbolic example of all the other problems that the modern regulatory state has created for individual Americans, for small businesses, for big businesses, for everyone who gets caught up in the snare of the federal government’s web.”

DeSantis echoed Cotton’s concerns.

“Part of having a constitutional government is that you have an accountable government,” the Florida Republican said. “James Madison in the Federalist 51 said, ‘If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither internal nor external constraints on government would be necessary.’ He rejected the idea that angels governed men, and he rejected the idea that you don’t need internal or external constraints on government. I guess the biggest thing that’s been impressed upon me is really the lack of accountability that we have throughout the federal bureaucracy and the executive branch. I think it’s something that the Founding Fathers would have been very disturbed to see.”

“For the IRS commissioner to testify, knowing he was going to be asked these questions, ‘I don’t really have the names of anyone who was responsible. I just don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that.’ To me that is just very, very troubling. So the oversight function is important. I think we make a huge mistake if we try to generate political outcomes, thinking that it will help us politically or that we’re trying to bring somebody down. I think it’s necessary if we are just trying to find the truth and hold individuals accountable. I think we need to see more of that in this government.”

“There’s an ethos here in this town of, ‘mistakes were made -- passive voice -- failures in the bureaucracy,’ rather than with the buck stopping with individuals. I think we have to do our job in Congress to hold folks responsible.”

Wagner agreed with the assessment of her colleagues.

“We’ve seen what has transpired over the last week,” she stated. “I would say it’s been a build up over the last four to five years, which is not just the difference between big versus limited government, but is an arrogance -- an absolute arrogance -- that is prevalent throughout this Administration. It’s also a failure of leadership when you have a president who is so disconnected -- not from our conference and our party, but from his own Democrat Party and other leadership here on the Hill. This is the trickledown effect of real arrogance here.”


The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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