We need answers for IRS scandal

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

If there is one thing that frustrates hardworking Americans more than anything, it is the idea that those in government are above the rule of law. It seems too often that some in Washington forget that government is supposed to work for the people, not the other way around.

It is no secret the Obama administration has had its fair share of scandals, but one common theme from each scandal is the lack of accountability. Time and time again, officials from the Obama administration have refused to take responsibility for their wrongdoings.

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Take the recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal as an example. As you know, last year reports surfaced that the IRS selectively targeted conservative aligned groups for further review, based solely on their political beliefs. This targeting runs counter to everything our nation stands for, including the fundamental right to freedom of speech.
Numerous committees in the House of Representatives held investigations, only to be stonewalled around every corner by the Obama administration. That’s what led the House earlier this year to find Lois Lerner, the former IRS official in charge of the IRS’s tax exempt division, in contempt of Congress.

Now the IRS is claiming that emails from Lerner during the time span from 2009 to 2011 were lost due to a “computer crash.” If the IRS was auditing you or me, what do you think they would do if we said that we lost the backup documentation for our 2009-2011 tax returns? They’d try to put us in jail.

Another example of the lack of accountability in the Obama administration comes from the ongoing crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Very few VA employees have been fired for their actions, despite veterans dying while on secret waiting lists. In the most notable case, the former VA Undersecretary for Health, Robert Petzel, claimed to be resigning due to the scandal when in reality he was already set to retire.

The House responded by passing legislation, which would make it easier for senior level officials at the VA who are responsible for the poor care and manipulations of wait lists to be fired. Even still, very few have been held accountable.

I believe the people of southwest Alabama sent me to Washington to restore faith in our government. I’m proud of some of the steps we have taken, but more work remains. It’s past time for the federal government to be about the people, not above them.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.