Lawmakers continued their crusade to dig into the Internal Revenue Service controversy Monday, questioning the agency's new top official about his commitment to holding guilty parties accountable. But the new agency head said he was already working to restore the public's trust.
"I have initiated a comprehensive review of the agency and have taken immediate actions to address significant and alarming problems identified in the report," Danny Werfel, the new acting IRS commissioner told members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on Monday. He also pledged to work with members of Congress to ensure similar behavior from happening again.
Last month, a government watchdog determined IRS officials had inappropriately targeted conservative political groups applying for tax exempt status.
Werfel, who had previously worked as controller in the Office of Management and Budget, said he would practice fairness and transparency in his new role and said the agency would work to implement the nine recommendations made by the Inspector General report in how to prevent similar behavior in the future.
"I intend to regularly update the public both on this effort and on the progress being made to eliminate the backlog of applications," Werfel said. "Wherever we find management breakdowns or breakdowns in other controls, we will move to correct these problems quickly and in a robust manner."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle gave Werfel better treatment than they did to out-going IRS officials who had appeared before multiple congressional panels during the last week of May.
"Bad news doesn't get better when time goes by, and I think you're committed [and] we're committed to trying to find out what went on and let those facts led us where they lead us," said Rep. Ander Crenshaw R-Fla., the subcommittee chairman. "I'm glad to hear you say you do believe that the trust in the American people has been betrayed, because it seems obvious."
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney took a pass at the opportunity to respond to the charge made by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa Sunday that he was a "paid liar." Issa made the allegation regarding Carney's responses to questions in recent weeks about the IRS scandal and the congressman hinted he believed the White House might have been involved in directing the politically motivated additional tax scrutiny.
"As late as last week, the [Obama] administration was still trying to say there was a few rogue agents from Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington," Issa said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Carney said Monday he was not going to get into a "back and forth" with Issa and stood by all of his comments regarding the scandal.
"I would note that when I spoke about the situation, I was referring to the findings of the independent inspector general who – let's be clear – said both in testimony and his report said he found no evidence that those outside the IRS influenced the behavior that took place there," Carney said.
Carney did take a veiled swipe at Issa though, saying the White House is interested in all "legitimate congressional oversight."
"Perhaps there are issues the chairman has with the IG – I was citing the findings of the independent inspector general," he said. "I spoke very carefully and specifically about the findings of the independent inspector general in his lengthy review of the conduct at the IRS."
Werfel said he would be issuing an update on his efforts to clean up the tax collecting agency at the end of the month. At least two top IRS officials have resigned and one has been placed on administrative leave in the wake of the fracas, though the author of the damning Inspector General report, J. Russell George, said Monday no one in the Cincinnati office would admit who initiated the order to target groups with "tea party," "patriot" and "9/12" for additional scrutiny.