Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Internal Revenue Service’s extra scrutiny of conservative groups is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a “pattern” of this administration acting as the “speech police.”
In a phone interview with The Daily Caller, McConnell pointed to past actions by various agencies – including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius telling healthcare insurers that they could not disclose their feelings on the then-pending Affordable Care Act to their insures – and said that the IRS’s actions simply fell into that same mold.
“This IRS investigation is certainly about the IRS, but it’s about the broader issue of the administration’s abuse of power and efforts to silence the critics of the administration,” McConnelll said.
But the highest-ranking Senate Republican was cautious about calling for penalties for those involved.
“We want to get the truth. Who knew what and when? Did the White House know? We don’t know nearly enough about this,” McConnell said.
“The question is whose idea was it? Who condoned it? Who knew about it and at what point did they know about it?” he said.
“What we know for sure, even before the investigation starts, that this is totally inappropriate, maybe illegal, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it no matter how long it takes,” he said.
Other senators are not so cautious. Sen. Rand Paul called for a criminal investigation Tuesday morning. Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to add an amendment to an unrelated bill on the floor Tuesday afternoon that would have made it a crime for an IRS official to specifically scrutinize someone based on political beliefs.
Several House committees have called for an investigation into the IRS’s actions as well. The Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on the issue Friday. Back on the Senate side, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has also said he wants to look into the developing scandal.
McConnell sounded skeptical that Senate Democrats would conduct a sufficiently thorough investigation, saying: “To the extent that the Senate falls short, I’m confident that the House will make sure we get answers to all of our questions.”
By all accounts, this week has been very bad for the White House, with the IRS scandal coming just days after new evidence on the Benghazi attacks came to light that contradicted the administration’s version of events. There’s also the news that the Department of Justice secretly obtained phone records for Associated Press reporters.
McConnell said the wave of scandals is to be expected.
“This is what happens that you become arrogant and abusive and conclude that your goals are so justified that the means, any means you employ, are acceptable,” he said.