(WASHINGTON) — Facing angry lawmakers before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew promised that those involved in the Internal Revenue Service scandal will be held accountable once more facts are known.
“We are going to get to the bottom of it — anyone who is accountable will be held accountable,” Lew told the House Committee Wednesday. “I have made clear that it is an extraordinarily high priority, my highest priority to restore confidence in the IRS.”
As Lew faced the committee, in another hearing room a few doors down, Lois Lerner, the IRS’ director of the Exempt Organizations, pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lew was pressed if he agreed with Lerner’s personal assessment that she did “nothing wrong.” The treasury secretary refused to answer one way or the other.
“I’m going to wait to have all the facts,” he replied, “I don’t have all the facts. We have to make decisions based on facts.”
Lew, who also testified before the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday, ticked through more broadly what details are still not known. These items, he said, will be reviewed by incoming Commissioner Daniel Werfel, whose first day on the job was Wednesday.
“How could the communications be so bad? How could the management be so loose? And I can’t sit here today and tell you we’ve completed that,” Lew said, “Is there something systemic about the management structure of the Internal Revenue Service that needs to be fixed to be able to say, with confidence, that not just with regard to this area, but more broadly, we’ve taken the kind of look to be able to say that we can be confident that this won’t happen again?”
As he did Tuesday, Lew continued to stress that he believes, backed up by the evidence of the IG report, that while “outrageous methods to determine if certain groups qualifies for tax-exempt status” were used, “this conduct was not politically motivated.”
“It was unacceptable and it was inexcusable,” Lew said, “We’re going to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., told Lew that he found his response to this scandal “disingenuous at best.”
“We can judge for ourselves whether you are really making — trying to fix this for the future a priority,” Congressman Garrett concluded.
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