WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Internal Revenue Service told House Republicans on Wednesday that it would take years to provide all the documents they have subpoenaed in their probe of how the agency handled tea party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.
The comments by IRS chief John Koskinen drew a frosty response from Republicans who run the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, one of several congressional panels investigating the controversy. The panel's chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., warned him he should comply with the request "or potentially be held in contempt" of Congress, a sometimes threatened but seldom-used authority.
Republicans indicated a willingness to speed the process by accepting certain documents first but showed no signs of backing off their demands for what Koskinen said would be millions of communications involving IRS and White House officials and others.
"We don't want the excuses anymore. Prioritize it. Put more lawyers on the job," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a leading member of the committee. He added, "All means all."
"You've been more concerned with managing the political fallout than cooperating with Congress," Issa said.
Koskinen, who became IRS commissioner in December after the affair prompted a house-cleaning of top agency officials, said the service has provided more than 1.1 million pages of documents to congressional committees since their investigations began last spring. But he said it is taking time because by law, the IRS must remove sensitive personal information about taxpayers from any documents they give the Oversight panel.
"You're going to get a lot of emails" and other documents if the search isn't limited to relevant information, Koskinen told Issa. "You may want to have this investigation go on forever."