Three years after an internal report revealed the IRS targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, House Republicans are still flirting with the idea of impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
But at the same time, the effort is being resisted by a reluctant GOP leadership that would rather focus on promoting a party agenda that can lure voters in November.
The House Judiciary Committee last week held a second hearing on the three-year tenure of Koskinen, who Republicans say lied to Congress and improperly withheld information they requested in their probe of the agency's targeting of conservatives.
The panel is now weighing whether the House should hold a vote to impeach him, censure him or perhaps do nothing at all.
Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has led the probe into the IRS targeting, voted along party lines to censure Koskinen, a move that has no real punitive impact. But it's unclear when or if the House will even take up a censure vote, never mind impeachment.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has long been critical of the IRS, gave House committees the nod to hold hearings and examine how far the House should go in rebuking Koskinen, who took over the agency in 2013, after the revelation that the IRS was targeting conservatives.
Ryan appears to have little appetite for using the House floor to rebuke Koskinen, either through an impeachment vote or through formal censure. Instead, he's focused on the six-part Republican agenda the GOP conference unveiled this month, which includes comprehensive tax reform.
"What I think we need to do is win an election, get better people in these agencies and reform the tax code so we're not harassing the average taxpayer with a tax code they can't even understand," Ryan told reporters recently.
Ryan aides won't signal where he stands on an impeachment vote, but Republican aides said his lack of enthusiasm was a big reason the House Oversight panel voted on the less-serious censure measure.
"It's a little more palatable to some members than impeachment," a GOP aide told the Examiner.
Ryan faces pressure to hold an impeachment vote from his most conservative faction of House Republicans. Many in the House GOP who are calling for the ouster of Koskinen were elected with the help of the Tea Party, a group the IRS appeared to be targeting for additional and unfair scrutiny, according to the Treasury inspector general.
Last week, the House Freedom Caucus, which includes many of the GOP lawmakers, formally called for the House to hold an impeachment vote.
"Mr. Koskinen is guilty of gross negligence, dereliction of duty and violating the public trust, and therefore meets the legal standard for impeachment of a public official," the group said in a statement.
Republicans believe Koskinen allowed thousands of IRS emails to be destroyed, despite a subpoena to send them to the House Oversight panel. Many of the emails were later recovered, despite Koskinen saying they were lost forever.
"The question is, is it acceptable for the head of one of the most powerful agencies in government to operate under a lower standard of conduct than that which is applied to the taxpayers the commissioner is charged with auditing?" Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in June.
"I have no doubt that American taxpayers find such an arrangement to be unacceptable. Surely, this House should also find it unacceptable."