GOP Leaders Urges IRS to Drop Proposed Rule Restricting Free Speech

Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), with Reps. CAthy McMOrris Rodgers (R., Wash.), and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) / AP
February 6, 2014

Top congressional Republicans are speaking out against a proposed IRS rule that could restrict the free speech of groups critical of the Obama administration.

Several GOP congressional leaders joined in signing a letter to the IRS commissioner John Koskinen asking him to abandon the proposed rule.

According to a press release from Boehner's office:

"It is our view that finalizing this proposed rule would make intimidation and harassment of the administration’s political opponents the official policy of the IRS and would allow the Obama administration to use your agency as a partisan tool.  This would be a serious error, especially in light of the recent track record of intimidation at the IRS. It would also cement your reputation as someone who is unable or unwilling to restore the public’s faith in this important agency," according to the letter addressed to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The letter was signed by House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers, Senate Finance Committee ranking Republican Orrin Hatch and Senate Appropriations Committee ranking Republican Richard Shelby.

Referring to the IRS targeting of conservative groups in the run-up to the 2010 and 2012 elections, the lawmakers wrote that the proposed new rule continues the agency’s targeting of First Amendment rights by these same grass-root conservative groups.

"This rule would redefine political activity so broadly that grass-roots groups all across the country will likely be forced to shut down simply for engaging in the kind of non-partisan educational activities" their tax designation was designed to support, the letter said. "In many cases, these are the same groups that were already victimized by the IRS’s inappropriate targeting."