Outgoing IRS Commissioner Steven Miller stonewalled a series of congressional questions Friday in the first public hearing held to get to the bottom of why tea party and patriot groups who sought tax-exempt status received elevated scrutiny.
"You're not going to cooperate with me. You have been uncooperative during this hearing," Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., said pointedly after a spirited back and forth with Miller.
Miller, who announced his resignation Wednesday, in light of the controversy, did accept some responsibility.
"I never said I didn't do anything wrong," Miller said "I resigned because as the acting commissioner...I should be held accountable for what happens."
But as details surrounding the scandal slowly come out, Republicans and Democrats used their time in the hearing room to shape their respective political narratives and tip public opinion in their favor.
Democrats chided the IRS for sloppy practices and " horrible customer service" but disputed the assumption the targeting of select groups was politically motivated.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., argued there was a growing number of tax-exempt applications coming from tea party organizations and the IRS was just trying to more efficiently do its work.
"The IRS is an easy target and everyone wants to get a pitchfork when the tax man comes," McDermott said.
Other Democrats repeatedly emphasized the leader of the IRS during the scandal was a George W. Bush appointee and asked the Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George to reiterate that he had not yet found any evidence that the IRS targeted patriot groups because they sought political retribution.
"This outrage is not Democratic and Republican. It involved the credibility of government as it relates to American citizens," said Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.
Republicans, however, had a different take.
"This revelation goes against the very principles of free speech and liberty upon which this country was founded," said Rep.Dave Camp, R-Mich., the committee chairman. "The blatant disregard with which the agency has treated Congress and the American taxpayer raises serious concerns about leadership at the IRS."
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., accused Miller of misleading the committee and covering up the scandal when Congress had asked about it during the last year.
"How was that not misleading the committee?" Ryan asked.
Miller said he had been forthright in his previous testimony and dismissed the notion that the behavior of his subordinates was in any way politically motivated.
"I do not believe partisanship motivated the people," Miller said.