May 17, 2013 11:56:32 AM
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers are ready to question the ousted head of the Internal Revenue Service as Congress holds its first hearing on the tougher scrutiny the IRS gave tea party and other conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status.
With the scandal joining the parade of political headaches buffeting President Barack Obama, the Republican-run House Ways and Means Committee planned to question the agency's ousted chief, Steven Miller, on Friday.
Miller, acting director until he resigned Wednesday, seems sure to get a hostile reception from the committee. Members of both parties have spent the past week bitterly chastising the agency for abandoning its charge of making nonpolitical decisions about which groups should qualify for tax-exempt status, which makes it easier for them to collect contributions from donors.
Lawmakers also have said that despite asking the IRS repeatedly about complaints from conservative groups that their applications were being treated unfairly, the agency -- including Miller -- never told them the groups were being targeted, even after May 2012, when the agency said Miller was briefed on the practice. Miller was previously a deputy commissioner whose portfolio included the unit that made decisions about tax-exempt status.
Also testifying Friday was J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration.
A report George issued this week concluded that the IRS office in Cincinnati, which screened applications for the tax exemptions, improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for tougher treatment.