Roundtable I: Scandal Fallout

Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. Bob Menendez, Rep. Tom Price, and Rep. Charles Rangel.
11:49 | 05/19/13

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Transcript for Roundtable I: Scandal Fallout
latest example of a culture of cover-up and intimidation in this administration. It seems like that the truth is hidden from the american people. Just long enough to make it through the election. If this hearing becomes essentially a bootstrap to continue the campaign, and to prepare for 2014, we will be making a very, very serious mistake. That was the scene at the capitol on friday. As the house kicked off its hearings into the irs. Senate finance committee holds its hearings this week. We're joined by two senators on that committee, republican rob portman and bob menendez from new jersey, tom price and charles rangel. Let me begin with you, senator portman. The allegations have been looked at the white house, the inspector general of the irs and this house committee has had its hearings. So far, no evidence at the white house knew of the wrongdoing in cincinnati. Do you accept that first of all? And given that, what's the most important unanswered qns at your hearing this week? Well, george, first, we just don't know yet. There was an audit done by an inspector general. But, we haven't had an investigation yet. That's why a bipartisan investigation is necessary. I also think that a special counsel is going to end up being necessary here. Because it has to be independent of the white house. What we do know is, politics was put ahead of the public interest. of our government. The first, the tax collection agency. And second, our national security. Second, look, I was one of the people that sent a letter, in march a year ago, what's going on here? We're hearing from all of these consecutive groups. There seems to be targeting. There seems to be a problem. The irs apparently took a look at it. Responded to our letter, indicated that there was no problem. But, unfortunately, they were informed of it and within a week of our letter being responded to, they actually had a briefing, the deputy commissioner of the irs, indicating that there were these problems. They never bothered to correct it. Over a year later, they acknowledged it. There's a real concern here. David kamp just talked about basically putting politics ahead of the election. We don't know. Senator, but there has been an investigation in the house. Have you seen any evidence that anyone outside of that cincinnati office, and you're in cincinnati today, gave any kind of direction, any kind of political direction to the office? Look, george, we just don't know. We do know that there was a california office involved. We do know that the washington office was very involved. So, it wasn't just the cincinnati office. I find it hard to believe that lower-level employees here in ohio took it on themselves. And it went on for a couple of years, without anyone knowing about it. Again, we have information based on the report, the deputy commissioner of the irs was made aware of this, at least on may 3rd. He asked his folks to go to cincinnati to look into it on march 2012. Yet, they responded to a letter from congress, not telling the american people about this. So, it seems to me that there's a lot of issues here. We need to get to the bottom. We need to find out what really happened and regain trust in our government, that's my concern. Senator menendez, you just heard a call for a special counsel, do you think that's necessary? Look, even the chairman of the house oversight committee said you don't start accusing the irs until you have an independent deep dive. That's what the inspector general did. Since we have come to know what the inspector general has said heads have rolled. There's a leader at the agency. There are two scandals here. It's wrong and outrageous. A lack of management. We should look legislatively to see we have to create screens and filters that they look in the future. Second scandal, and that fact is, that hundreds of millions of DOLLARS HAD BEEN USED IN C-4s Supposed to be used as nonprofit agencies for political purposes. The irs went after small tea party groups. Karl rove said that he's using these to change the outcof the next election. Two scandals. Congressman price, you asked that queout whether the so-called targeting was illegal, have you seen any evidence that a crime was committed? Well, we don't know yet as senator portman said. This is really chilling stuff, though, george. The irs was asking church groups, what was the content of their prayer, prayers, to determine whether or not to give them tax-exempt status? Or book groups. What books they were reading. This is just the beginning. What senator portman started with it, the report was an audit not an investigation. This is just the beginning of to process, we need to get to the bottom of this. Who made those decisions, and hold them to account. Do you think a special counsel is needed as well? Again, I think it's premature to determine that. I do believe the committees in the house and senate need to continue their investigation and determine who made these decisions. They don't make those kind of deons. You know that. The american people know that. What needs to be restored is trust. Congressman rangel, extensive reporting in your hometown newspaper "new york times," some of this information, to the extent higher-ups in the irs were involved they actually ordered the cincinnati investigators to broaden their criteria not to single out the tea party or not to have any political bias there? The biggest problem there is, workers who work hard, with all of this stigma being tax collectors, are getting a bad shake out of this. First of all, it is the law. Senator menendez said that this law lends itself to abuse. I don't think that gang in cincinnati had the slightest clue as to finding out whether or not people making contributions were involved in politics or whether they were involved in social welfare. Under the law, it's not just an exclusive thing. And people were abusing this law. Whether they should have used this buzzwords for conservatives or liberals, it's wrong or outrageous when people are penalized for their political belief. But the law has been abused every since it's been there. Senator portman, how about that? Are you concerned about that? Congressman rangel saying that there was real potential for abuse there that had to be oversee? George, he's the point, we can talk about the laws ought to be changed. And yes, I'm for tax reform. But the question is, was there an unbiased, even-handed enforcement of the law? There was not. What's happening in cincinnati what's happening in cincinnati, and unfortunately, in other places in the country, including california and washington, d.C., there was a bias. So, we can complain about what the law says. This issue is about the enforcement of that law, the american people deserve to know that it's not being biased. That it's even-handed. That it's fair. In regards to tax contribution. By the way, earlier we heard some discussion from dan pfeiffer about whether the irs is the appropriate body now to look into obama care, and he didn't sound very confident. He said we'll have to look into that. To the point you made earlier about dan balz's article in the washington post, big government was promised to deal with these issues to solve our problems, i think that's also being brought into question. Do you believe it's appropriate for sarah hall ingram now overseeing the president's health ce plan to remain in that position? Well, we don't know enough yet. She apparently was at the tax-exempt office heading it up until 2012. The period in which this biased target targeted occurred. We need to find out why she was given promotions during that period and then why she was promoted to another job to take care of even bigger responsibility. The irs is being asked to take on, which is implementing obama care. Senator menendez? George, I was involved in the 1990s AND THE IRS REFORM. With all due respect to my colleague, it's not about changing the law, it's about investigating the law to make sure that it's applied appropriately. Hundreds of millions of dollars being used for political advocacy, that people can get a tax break on that when they're not supposed to, that should be investigated as well. We don't need to change the law, we're talking about pursuing the law. And I find it interesting that my colleagues seem far more concerned about inveating the legislative. They want to pursue these -- to have a dysfunctional congress. When you have a heritage foundation, don't bring a bipartisan bill to the floor because you'll distract from these investigations. The american people want us to solve their problems. Do you believe that the american people, given what happened here, the irs is going to trust the irs oversight of the president's health care plan? First of all, they have a part of the entire health care act and that oversight will be done by our respective committees as well as the labor committee. And what's most important is not to have 37 votes in the house of representatives to repeal the president's health care law. Which means 37 votes from stopping millions of young people from being on their parents' insurance. That didn't pursue any effort to improve health care in the nation. Your response, congressman price? Good attempt to change the subject. This is about trust. Sarah hall ingram, who was in charge of the tax-exempt division at the irs between 2009 and 2012, the exact time of this challenge and affront to the american people, is now in charge of instituting and regulating and determining whether or not the irs is doing the appropriate things as it relates to the president's health care law. Remember, the irs is enforcement arm for the president's health care law. Do you think she has to go? She has to step back until we at least until we get to the bottom of this. Congressman rangel? No republican agenda instead to stop the president of the united states. There's no evidence, that whatever went wrong it was known outside of cincinnati. They should have been better trained to deal with a very sensitive piece of legislation that was abused by the left and the right. Gentlemen, thank you all very much. Our powe roundtable is up next.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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