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Grilling Season Starts on Capitol Hill
PHOTO: Ousted IRS Chief Steve Miller, right, and J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, testify on Capitol Hill, in Washington, May 17, 2013.

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )

NOTABLES

  • THE PLOT THICKENS (AGAIN): The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted Tea Party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and STEVEN PORTNOY report. Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS' Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News. Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit. House Speaker John Boehner expressed "serious concerns" that the IRS is empowered as the health care law's chief enforcer. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also reacted to the revelation late Thursday, stating the news was "stunning, just stunning." http://abcn.ws/10ByINn
  • THE MAIN EVENT: The House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing starting at 9 a.m. ET today on the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups. Members of the committee will have a chance to hear testimony from and ask questions of outgoing acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George. "News that the agency admits it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both astounding and appalling," Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a statement previewing today's event. "The Committee on Ways and Means will get to the bottom of this practice and ensure it never takes place again."
  • INCOMING: President Obama on Thursday appointed Office of Management and Budget official Danny Werfel to serve as acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. Werfel, 42, replaces Steven Miller, who was asked to resign Wednesday in the wake of revelations that IRS employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups. "Throughout his career working in both Democratic and Republican administrations, Danny has proven an effective leader who serves with professionalism, integrity and skill," Obama said. Werfel will start at the IRS May 22, and has agreed to serve in the temporary position until Oct. 1. http://abcn.ws/11JABPu
  • OUTGOING: A second IRS official announced yesterday that he would be leaving the agency in the wake of the scandal. Joseph Grant, who only recently became Commissioner of Tax Exempt Organizations and Government Entities a week ago, will retire on June 3. Before that, Grant was deputy commissioner of the scandal-plagued unit. WATCH JONATHAN KARL's "Good Morning America" report on the White House's damage control efforts: http://abcn.ws/14blds8
  • THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': As second-term scandals engulf the White House, Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer goes one-on-one with ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, Sunday on "This Week." Plus, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., debate the IRS, Benghazi, and AP leak investigation scandals. And the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable takes on all the week's politics. See the "This Week" page for full guest listings. Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek

HAPPENING TODAY

OBAMA CHANGES THE SUBJECT. Trying to steer attention back to his second term agenda, President Obama is taking his economic plan on the road to Baltimore today, the second stop on his "Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour," ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. The president visits an Elementary School in Baltimore, before touring Ellicott Dredges, which, according to a White House preview of his trip, "manufactures innovative dredges and dredge equipment being sold for infrastructure projects across the country and around the world." This afternoon, the president will delivers remarks on the economy at Ellicott Dredges. He wraps up his visit with a stop at a local community center.

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC's DEVIN DWYER: Buffeted by scandal, President Obama today is going back to basics: hitting the road in search of "middle class jobs and opportunity." But the trip to Ellicott Dredges, a small business in Baltimore, could put him face to face with another thorny problem: whether or not to approve the contentious Keystone XL pipeline. Ellicott president and CEO Peter Bowe has been an outspoken advocate for the project, growing impatient with the administration over the delay. Bowe told a House committee just yesterday that oil sands production in Alberta, where Keystone would start, is critical to the success of his small business and other manufacturers nationwide: "When we make a sale for a Canadian oil sands environmental project, we rely on literally hundreds of vendors from across the country to export a product, which is almost all American-made," he said in testimony. "To the extent this process is delayed, the producers will suffer economic loss, and their U.S. suppliers, like Ellicott Dredges will suffer as well…including diminished employment." Now, he has a chance to personally get that message in Obama's ear.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: President Obama may be trying to shift the focus from the scandals that have engulfed his administration this week to his middle class agenda, but all eyes will be fixed on Capitol Hill today where outgoing Acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller and the Treasury Department's inspector general in charge of the report about the IRS's targeting of conservative groups will face a barrage of questions from lawmakers. Although the president and his team have taken concrete steps this week to deal with the IRS debacle and other challenges, those actions have done little to silence critics like House Speaker John Boehner, who said yesterday: "Nothing dissolves the bonds between the people and their government like the arrogance of power here in Washington, and that's what the American people are seeing today from the Obama administration - remarkable arrogance." The White House may be trying to pivot, but with much more to come on the IRS saga, the Benghazi inquiry and the investigation into the government's subpoena of journalists' phone records, it's shaping up to be a long, hot summer.

BUZZ

IMMIGRATION UPDATE: HOUSE HAS AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE. The House bipartisan "Gang of Eight" has reached an agreement in principle on immigration overhaul, including major points such as a pathway to citizenship, border security, health care and guest workers, a member of the group told ABC News last night. The lower chamber now expects to work out details next week before taking the Memorial Day break and introducing the bill June 4, reports ABC's JIM AVILA, SERENA MARSHALL, JOHN PARKINSON and SUNLEN MILLER. Over hoagie sandwiches, a two-hour meeting of a bipartisan group of congressmen nearly fell apart yesterday over who would pay for immigrant health care, the House "Gang" member said. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was the last holdout who had to call into the meeting from Idaho where his daughter had a recital, the member said. Labrador, described as the most influential Republican in the House "Gang of Eight" because he represents Majority Leader Eric Cantor's interests, finally agreed when language proposed by Democrats ensured that taxpayer money would not pay for immigrant health care. Although not a member of the "Gang of Eight," Wisconsin congressman and former vice presidential contender Paul Ryan was instrumental in bringing the Republicans along in the agreement. http://abcn.ws/184OaYm

NEXT STEPS: The whole package will now be run past their respective leadership and colleagues before the final language is finished and reviewed. But Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said the bill "is imminent." Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has completed three days of markups and had addressed a total of 82 of the 300 amendments introduced to the legislation, which was written by the Senate "Gang of Eight." That meant they had earlier addressed more than a quarter of the amendments. A spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told ABC News earlier today that they were "making good progress and by far most amendments have passed on bipartisan basis."

TEA PARTIERS VOW TO SUE IRS. Tea Party activists promised yesterday to sue the Internal Revenue Service while claiming a vindication in their long-held complaints about perceived government overreach. At a news conference on Capitol Hill, activists joined Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to lambaste the federal government for targeting them with extra scrutiny as they applied for tax-exempt status as public-advocacy groups, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. "This is not only unconstitutional, it is illegal," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative civil-rights group that says it is suing the IRS on behalf of clients who were targeted for extra scrutiny because of their groups' leanings. The American Center for Law and Justice represents 27 tea party groups that received questionnaires from the IRS asking for information on their donors, members, finances, educational materials, events and, in at least one case, connections to another group and another individual. Sekulow said 17 of his clients are prepared to move ahead with a civil lawsuit against the IRS, which is likely to come sometime next week. http://abcn.ws/10v8hgj

HOUSE TRIES 37TH TIME TO TURN BACK 'OBAMACARE'. It was déjà vu on Capitol Hill yesterday, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports, as the House voted yet again, 229-195, to repeal the nation's health care law. It marked the 37th time lawmakers have tried to overturn the entire landmark act or a piece of it. Two conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Reps. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., and Jim Matheson, D-Utah, voted along with 227 House Republicans in support of the bill. The repeal legislation, sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, passed the House. But even she and her fellow Republicans know that it will go no further, given that Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and the Supreme Court has already ruled that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. The health care debate marks at least the 43rd day, congressional officials say, since Republicans won control of the House in 2010 that they have focused on the issue. Taken together, that is more than eight work weeks. http://abcn.ws/YNjmZt

THE SPEAKER'S RATIONALE: In a statement following yesterday's vote, House Speaker John Boehner said it was "all about jobs," ABC's JOHN PARKINSON notes. "The president's health care law is already undermining our economy - employers are cutting workers and cutting hours, costs are going up, and even Democrats are worried the whole thing is headed for a train wreck," Boehner, R-Ohio, stated. "There are also serious concerns about whether the IRS should be involved in our health care at all, let alone as the law's chief enforcer," he added. "Fully repealing Obamacare will help us build a stronger, healthier economy, and will clear the way for patient-centered reforms that lower health care costs and protect jobs."

SYMBOLISM ALERT: OBAMA WEATHERS STORM WITH HELP FROM MARINE, UMBRELLA. With a trio of scandals rocking the Obama administration, a dark cloud has descended over the White House in recent days. Yesterday, as ABC's MARY BRUCE notes, that cloud literally opened up on President Obama. Running 47 minutes late, President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan stepped out into the Rose Garden for a joint press conference as a light sprinkle began to fall. By the time they were ready to field questions, the drizzle had turned into steady rain. The president asked two nearby Marines to hold umbrellas for them, while the press was left to fend for themselves. "I am going to go ahead and ask folks, why don't we get a couple of Marines - they're going to look good next to us," Obama joked. "I've got a change of suits, but I don't know about our prime minister." Minutes later, the sun began to shine again and Obama, after ducking out from under the umbrella, sent the marines away. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/13pK9t4

TODAY IN HISTORY: WATERGATE HEARINGS TELEVISED 40 YEARS AGO. Richard Milhous Nixon was "not a crook," or so the 37th U.S. president would have us believe. But such denials at a Nov. 17, 1973, news conference meant little or nothing by then, six months to the day after North Carolina Sen. Sam Ervin opened two weeks of often-riveting, live televised hearings on the Watergate scandal, ABC's CALVIN LAWRENCE JR. notes. A month after the televised hearings, which started May 17, 1973 an astonishing 97 percent of Americans had heard of Watergate, according to the U.S. Senate website. And 67 percent believed that President Nixon had participated in a cover-up of the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington. See some of the vintage ABC NEWS footage: http://abcn.ws/16DHaUz

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

LEADER OF TARGETED TEA PARTY GROUP 'PISSED OFF' BY IRS'S QUESTIONING. Susan McLaughlin knows first-hand what it's like to be targeted by the IRS. Her Tea Party group in Liberty Township, Ohio was among those subjected to intense questioning after applying for tax-exempt status. McLaughlin tells ABC's RICK KLEIN and Yahoo! News' OLIVIER KNOX, hosts of "Top Line," "it just pisses you off" to be questioned by the IRS in such detail. "It's intrusive; it is clearly a fishing expedition," McLaughlin says. McLaughlin reads aloud a question from a seven-page-long letter The Liberty Township Tea Party received from the IRS's Cincinnati office. "'List each past and present board member, officer, key employee and members of their family,' and then it says, 'have they served on the board of another organization?'" "Well, what does that mean?" McLaughlin asks of the IRS's question. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/YOdGyp

WHAT WE'RE READING

WEINER'S WIFE DIDN'T DISCLOSE CONSULTING WORK SHE DID WHILE SERVING IN STATE DEPT.," by The New York Times' Raymond Hernandez. "The State Department, under Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, created an arrangement for her longtime aide and confidante Huma Abedin to work for private clients as a consultant while serving as a top adviser in the department. Ms. Abedin did not disclose the arrangement - or how much income she earned - on her financial report. It requires officials to make public any significant sources of income. An adviser to Mrs. Clinton, Philippe Reines, said that Ms. Abedin was not obligated to do so. The disclosure of the agreement that Ms. Abedin made with the State Department comes as her husband, former Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a Democrat, prepares for a mayoral run in New York City. Politico reported the arrangement on Thursday afternoon. Ms. Abedin declined a request for an interview, but the picture that emerges from interviews and records suggests a situation where the lines were blurred between Ms. Abedin's work in the high echelons of one of the government's most sensitive executive departments and her role as a Clinton family insider." http://nyti.ms/12z7o6v

WHO'S TWEETING?

@BenSherwoodABC: Very happy (belated) @ABC birthday to Alyssa Apple and @sarajust! (Thursday)

@HotlineReid: John Edwards is getting his law license back - http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/05/16/4045751/edwards-to-speak-at-retreat-a.html …

@JillDLawrence: Why Obama didn't go all Bulworth, and other temptations he resisted at his press conference. http://bit.ly/14tHwJa @nationaljournal

@nowthised: @BarackObama controversies remind #Shelby of 'dark old days in #Washington': http://nowth.is/185FqBs via @nowthisnews (cc: @SenShelbyPress)

@DavidMDrucker: Among reasons Americans hate the #IRS: When they audit you, you're guilty until proven innocent. That's their approach.

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