Impeachment Vote on IRS Head Delayed by Deal to Hold Hearing

(Bloomberg) -- Conservative Republicans backed off their demands for an immediate vote on impeaching Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen after U.S. House leaders promised to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing.

The sponsors of the resolution, Representative John Fleming of Louisiana and other members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, said they abandoned their plan to force a vote on Thursday. Mike Long, a spokesman for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, confirmed the deal.

The Judiciary Committee said Wednesday night that it would hold a hearing on Sept. 21 to examine the allegations against Koskinen, who will appear as a witness.

The move likely delays any effort to force a vote in the full chamber until after the November election. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, AshLee Strong, declined to comment, referring questions about the last-second deal to the Judiciary Committee.

Even so, a conservative House Republican who has been pushing for a floor vote said Thursday morning that he will press for one next week.

Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who lost his primary race for re-election, said he doesn’t know of any agreement to delay a vote until November.

"We will wait one more week to have a hearing," he said. "I plan on having a vote next week."

Under Oath

The Freedom Caucus said Wednesday night that the Judiciary hearing "will give every American the opportunity to hear John Koskinen answer under oath why he misled Congress, allowed evidence pertinent to an investigation to be destroyed, and defied Congressional subpoenas and preservation orders."

Koskinen has been criticized by House Republicans for months for his handling of an investigation into IRS treatment of conservative groups applying for non-profit status. But House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he prefers matters to make their way to floor for votes in "regular order" -- by way of consideration by committees of jurisdiction.

Several Republicans, including Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania -- co-chairman of a group of House moderates -- in recent days were publicly saying they’d get behind moves to simply kill the impeachment resolution, or send it to a committee for consideration.

Others echoing Dent included Representative Peter King of New York and Richard Hanna of New York.

That left the prospects of passage of an impeachment resolution in doubt. With Democrats expected to vote wholesale against such a move, the defection of some Republicans seemed likely to doom the impeachment effort.

Targeting Allegations

The Freedom Caucus has been pressing for the impeachment of Koskinen, whom they accuse of impeding an investigation into whether the tax agency improperly targeted conservative nonprofit groups.

The impeachment resolution spearheaded by Fleming and the Freedom Caucus specifically includes allegations Koskinen failed to prevent the IRS from destroying evidence and providing false and misleading information to Congress. 

Koskinen and the Treasury Department have said the allegations are meritless.

In a statement, Fleming credited himself and the Freedom Caucus for pressuring House leaders to take action.

Koskinen "needs to be put under oath and this never would have happened without our efforts to bring this issue to the forefront," he said.

Fleming added that the group could still try to bring a resolution to the floor in November "if regular order is not followed through with."