What a Difference a Scandal Switch Makes: Oversight Dems on Fire vs. ex-IRS Chief
"It's simply not good enough, Mr. Shulman," Cummings said. "…You personally knew there was a target list. You knew it said 'tea party' on it. You put new processes in place, and you took personnel actions. You reassigned at least one individual back in 2012. Come on Mr. Shulman. I mean we - help us help the taxpayers."
Several members on the committee noted that the panel was more unified than it's been in a long time, and Cummings' increasingly heated exchange with Shulman revealed comity with chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) that was nonexistent during the Benghazi hearing.
Under questioning from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Shulman claimed he only got two notices from members of Congress concerned about targeting instead of the 132 letters actually sent to him.
"Do you take responsibility for what happened in the Cincinnati office?" Speier asked.
"Being done? You know, I don't take personal responsibility for there being a list with criteria put on it, but I do accept the fact that this did happen on my watch," Shulman said.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) asked what Shulman will actually take responsibility for.
"I wouldn't go down a long list. I was the leader of the IRS at the time that this happened. I accept the fact that this happened on my watch, and I'm very sorry that this happened while I was at the IRS," he responded.
"Mr. Shulman, do you accept responsibility for Ms. Lerner's failures as your employee?" Duckworth continued. Lois Lerner, head of the tax-exempt division, refused to answer questions early in the hearing after declaring in a statement that she's innocent of all wrongdoing.
"I have the same answer. This happened on my watch. I do not accept responsibilities for all of the actions taken by all of the people outlined in the report," he said.
Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in the Iraq War, chided Shulman that "you're always responsible for the performance, the training, the actions of the men and women under you."
"I am deeply disappointed in your answer because right now in forward operating bases in Afghanistan, all over the world we have 25-year-old buck sergeants and second lieutenants who know you can delegate authority, you can never delegate responsibility," she said.
On Shulman's part, the former head of the IRS wasn't projecting an attitude today that would win him many friends.
Least of all Lynch.
"My understanding was the conservative groups were not the only ones getting these questions. That was my memory," Shulman said.
"Now you're saying that they weren't being targeted because other groups were also being targeted for their political views. Is that what you're saying?" Lynch asked.
"No, that's not --"
"Well, that's interesting, because that's just what I heard."
"Well, I'd love to explain it to you, Congressman," Shulman said. "At no time, to the best of my memory, that -- was I ever given the impression that these were only being asked of conservative groups."
"After telling Congress that no -- absolutely no one is being targeted, you learn that there's a list, a list of people being targeted, tea party, patriots, people who are critical of how the government is being run, and -- and what did you do after that point?" Lynch said. "You did nothing. You did nothing to straighten out the impression that you had left by your testimony before Congress. Sir, you misled Congress. You misled Congress. Make no question about it. You told us one thing. When you learned -- when you learned that our suspicions were true, when you learned that there was a list, you did nothing. You did nothing."
Shulman carefully framed his words throughout the hearing, saying he "was dismayed and saddened to read the inspector general's conclusions that actions had been taken creating the appearance that the service was not acting as it should have."
Democrats on the panel lauded Issa's announcement that he'll summon the new acting IRS chief, White House budget official Daniel Werfel, "to come before us so that we can perhaps see in advance whether the management skills are there."
"I thank you because I think that's a major move," Cummings told Issa.
Freshman Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) noted "the inept, inexcusable actions of the IRS have done more to unify Democrats and Republicans than I've seen in my five months here so far."
"So that's what I'm going with. I'm going to try to work off of that," Pocan added.
"I'd use it until we lose it, and hopefully we won't," Issa said.