Nice to see that House Republicans are staying true to form. Faced with the prospect of actually governing, they've once again chosen to pander and pose instead. Unfortunately, taxpayers are going to pay the price for this predictability.
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee released a bill that would cut funding for the IRS by 24 percent from its fiscal 2013 level. Apparently, that reduction is a necessary response to "recent inappropriate actions" at the IRS, including silly videos, pricey conferences, and bungled exemption applications.
House Republicans think such problems can be solved with a budget cleaver. And they've been signaling their intention to do some heavy chopping for weeks. "I don't need to remind you or anybody else that the power of the purse rests with the Congress, and we're prepared to use that purse to get to the truth," warned Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers, D-Ky., on June 3.
Yesterday's bill, which is scheduled for markup today, makes good on that threat. And according to GOP leaders, it will also help protect Americans from a rogue agency. "The public is feeling a growing sense of distrust of what this administration and what Washington is doing," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in comments yesterday. "And that's why we in the House this month will be taking up a package of bills to stop this government abuse and put the American people first."
Unfortunately, the American people are the ones who will pay the price for budgetary punishment directed at the IRS. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson recently urged Americans to "wake up to the consequences of shrinking the IRS budget." Funding cuts have already decimated the agency's core functions, she said, "virtually eliminating funding for training, reducing taxpayer service to laughable levels (if it weren't so sad), and undertaking enforcement actions before any meaningful attempt to communicate with taxpayers -- in short, reducing taxpayers to widgets and dehumanizing them into objects that need to be 'processed efficiently.'"'
Beating up on the IRS is good fun, at least for a party that has put anti-tax rhetoric at the center of its electoral appeal. But since Americans are going to be paying taxes for some time to come - regardless of who wins control of the House, the Senate, or the White House - that rhetoric is also likely to cause some real unhappiness, at least to the extent that it gets translated into real budgets.
House Republicans seem happily oblivious to that reality. At the end of the day, they would rather score a few cheap political points than do something to actually fix the IRS.