Opening Statement of Ranking Member Sander Levin Mark-up of Referral Letter to Attorney General Holder
(Remarks as Prepared)
I was among the first to call for Lois Lerner to resign and for her to be relieved from her duties.
This executive session isn’t about any of us condoning the mismanagement at the IRS tax exempt division. And, it certainly isn’t about any of us condoning potential criminal activity.
Indeed, the Justice Department is investigating the entire matter to determine whether there should be criminal charges. The Justice Department has access to all of the same documents as we do. They have the ability to conduct interviews of all involved and to compel testimony.
Nearly a year ago, the investigation by this committee started with a bipartisan request for documents on May 14. It quickly got off those tracks with a declaration by Chairman Camp on May 17 that the IRS matter was the “latest example of a culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this Administration.” That started a year-long effort to pursue a failed effort to prove White House involvement, pursuit of an enemies list, or targeting of only conservative groups.
All of those claims were false.
I saw John Boehner on Fox News on Monday night. And Chairman Issa is having an Oversight and Government Reform meeting on Thursday to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.
It now seems clear that Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee have decided that they do not want to be left behind in the Republican campaign to declare this a scandal and keep it going until November. Making this Committee an arm of any Campaign Committee does a deep disservice to the proud traditions and legacy of this Committee.
Mr. Chairman, this action we are embarking on causes us tremendous concern and deep distress about the reputation of our Committee.
Look around. This is the prestigious Ways and Means Committee.
I don’t understand why you are doing this Mr. Chairman.
You have hand selected information that you believe proves your case from the about 700,000 documents provided during this investigation. You have given Members 24 hours to look at it. And, you have not provided them the necessary authority to look at any other documents, beyond what is included in the notebooks, so that members could reach a conclusion on their own.
Today, you are asking the members of this Committee to approve a letter urging the Department of Justice to pursue a criminal investigation of Lois Lerner. One that is already ongoing. One that her lawyers have indicated she has already been interviewed as part of.
And you are doing so in a manner that makes public previously protected taxpayer information.
Indeed, Mr. Chairman, this Committee enacted these taxpayer protections to prevent the use of taxpayer information for any other use than the administration of our tax laws. The provision under which you claim authority to release this information – Section 6103(f) – was enacted in response to the inappropriate use of taxpayer information by the Nixon Administration. The very disclosure that you put to a vote today violates the very taxpayer protections this Committee meant to create.
And, when was the only time on record that this committee has taken this unprecedented step? In 1974, Chairman Mills – after an audit by the Joint Committee on Taxation of President Nixon’s tax returns, which was requested by President Nixon – made a bipartisan report to the House of the President’s tax returns, thus making them public.
It should give all of us serious concern that we are taking our Committee down this road today.
You claim that the only way you can point out to the Attorney General that you think you have found specific evidence that criminal activity has taken place by Ms. Lerner is to make all of this material – previously considered protected taxpayer information – public. Mr. Chairman, that is just not accurate. The Department of Justice has access to all of the same information. If you are afraid they might have missed something, you can designate the Attorney General or his designee with your 6103 authority as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee – just as you did for the other Members of this Committee – for him to review it.
You certainly don’t need to erode the prestige of this committee by having us use – for political purposes – this sacred obligation we have to safeguard taxpayer information.
I wish I could come up with some other rationale for what you are doing, but I cannot.
I hope you will reconsider.