CAPITOL HILL— Republican lawmakers and fiscally conservative Tea Party leaders are vowing to keep up the pressure on the White House to see if it was involved with the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny. Tea Party leaders say the IRS scandal confirms their worst fears about a federal government they see as too big and too powerful.
A large number of Republican members of Congress and Tea Party leaders from across the country gathered outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday to criticize the Internal Revenue Service and the Obama administration over allegations the tax agency targeted Tea Party groups for special scrutiny. Conservative lawmakers called on Congress to dig deep to find out who made the decision to single out the groups seeking non-profit tax exempt status. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said House committees would stop at nothing to get to the truth.
"We need to know where the facts are. Somebody made a decision to do this. And I doubt that it was some low level employees in the Cincinnati field office," said Boehner.
Democratic President Barack Obama sought to push back against the criticism during a week where he has been plagued by several scandals at once. Obama said he did not know about the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups until last Friday, and condemned the IRS action.
"I am outraged by this in part, because, look, I am a public figure. If a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one political view over another, obviously we are all vulnerable," said President Obama.
The president appointed Daniel Werfel as the acting commissioner of the tax agency.
At the Capitol, Tea Party lawmakers and activists said the conduct by some IRS staff members amounts to harassment, and that there will be lawsuits against the agency. Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia said he has been warning about the dangers of big government for years.
"It is the strong arm of the government that is trying to affect elections, to try to stop the freedom of speech that we are guaranteed under the First Amendment [to the Constitution] and all Americans should just shudder and shiver at the prospects of a government out of control, too big, spending too much money," said Broun.
The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the IRS scandal Friday, and many more hearings are likely to follow in the Republican-led House of Representatives.