IRS official who oversaw unit targeting Tea Party now heads ObamaCare office
WASHINGTON – The IRS official who led the tax-exempt organizations unit when Tea Party groups were targeted is now in charge of the IRS office responsible for ObamaCare, two Capitol Hill sources told Fox News.
The acknowledgement comes after the administration announced that the official’s successor -- who had only been on the job a few days -- would be retiring. And it fueled criticism of the agency, as the outgoing IRS commissioner prepared to face lawmakers’ questions at a hearing Friday morning.
“Stunning. Just stunning,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in reaction to the latest development.
President Obama, meanwhile, maintained Thursday that he didn’t know about the investigation into the IRS program until it was made public.
The ObamaCare official in question, Sarah Hall Ingram, had been serving as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations from 2009 to 2012 -- the division included the group that targeted Tea Partiers -- and has since left to serve as director of the IRS' Affordable Care Act division. That unit is responsible for enforcing parts of the health care law, including the fines associated with the so-called individual mandate -- the requirement to buy health insurance.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, citing her current position and history with the scandal-marred unit, reinforced his call Thursday for the IRS to be blocked from implementing the health care law. "Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care," he said.
While still the commissioner of the Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division, Ingram was assigned to head the implementation of ObamaCare at the IRS in 2010 after the law was enacted. It is not clear when she stopped being the head of the tax-exempt office or how active her role was there while she was implementing ObamaCare.
But the official who succeeded her, Joseph Grant, is now leaving the agency in the wake of the scandal. His retirement was announced Thursday, even though he only took the job May 8.
Meanwhile, President Obama appointed a new acting commissioner after the prior IRS chief announced his resignation.
That official, Steven Miller, will be in the hot seat Friday when he is scheduled to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee in the first congressional hearing on the IRS scandal.
Also scheduled to testify is J. Russell George -- the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration -- and the man whose report released this week exposed the IRS practice that led to Miller's ouster (though Miller was apparently planning to leave the agency anyway).
The revelations at the Friday hearing could add more headaches for the Obama administration, as it tries to juggle its response to several scandals at once.
It's unclear whether more officials will resign at the IRS in the days to come.
An internal memo Thursday stated that Grant -- at the tax-exempt unit -- will retire on June 3. Grant oversaw the IRS division being called out for holding up applications from Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status. He was appointed to his position on May 8 by Miller.
The Senate side holds its first IRS-related hearing on May 21.
This week's clean-up at the agency is part of the Obama administration's mad dash to save face and regain footing after being hammered by a series of scandals this week, including new questions over the Benghazi terror attack and the Justice Department's seizing of journalists' phone records.