The former trial lawyer in 6th District congressman Peter Roskam emerged in a House committee's questioning of how much an IRS commissioner knew about the revenue service targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
During a five-minute exchange, Roskam, who also serves as House GOP Chief Deputy Whip, pressed outgoing Commissioner Steve Miller again and again about his knowledge of the department's actions and the tactics employed. His questions were part of a terse four-hour exchange between Miller and the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Roskam is a member, and the first of several hearings grilling department officials about the screening of tax-exempt applications.
Roskam, of Wheaton, Friday went beyond Republican assertions that the IRS was acting politically, and suggested that the agency was blaming its actions on incompetency.
"On the one hand you're arguing today that the IRS is not corrupt, but the subtext of that is you're saying 'look we're just incompetent.' And I think it is a perilous pathway to go down. There is sort of this notion that hasn't been satisfactorily answered, and that is 'if the targeting wasn't targeting, if the targeting wasn't based on philosophy, how come only conservatives got snagged?'"
Miller, who said the department's actions were not politically motivated, apologized for "the mistakes that we made and poor service we provided."
Miller said that "foolish mistakes" were made by IRS employees who were trying to be "more efficient" in carrying out their duties. Now, he said, "the agency is moving forward."
In a phone call with the Daily Herald, Roskam called Miller's testimony "completely underwhelming." He suggested that the entire situation presented a case for tax reform.
"The IRS is just too big, with too much power and too much discretion," Roskam said.
Miller stepped down Wednesday. President Barack Obama Thursday appointed Daniel Werfel as his replacement.
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.