Ousted IRS official to take tough questions from Congress

Steven Miller, a 25-year veteran of the IRS, is stepping down as acting commissioner of the agency. He testifies before Congress on Friday.

After a week of information slowly trickling out about the political discrimination carried out by the IRS, the public will finally on Friday hear directly from those at the agency.

Public questioning begins in the House Ways and Means Committee, where the acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller and J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), will testify Friday morning.

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that Miller is stepping down from his post. The president called the conduct at the IRS "inexcusable." A day earlier, George released a report blaming lax leadership for the fact that IRS agents put undue scrutiny on conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Even after those developments, however, members of Congress at this point may have more questions than they had to start with over this controversy, and their efforts to hold people accountable are far from over.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said in a statement that Miller's resignation "does nothing to change the culture of discrimination at the IRS."

"And, it certainly does nothing to change the fact that the tax system is targeting honest, hardworking taxpayers instead of working for them," he continued. "There are still far too many unanswered questions and until we know what truly happened, we cannot fully fix what is wrong."

Both Camp and the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., have been extremely critical of the misconduct at the IRS, with Levin earlier this week calling for the resignation of both Miller and senior IRS official Lois Lerner.

Lerner is one of four witnesses invited to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next Wednesday. However, Lerner has not yet confirmed whether or not she'll be present, a spokesperson for the Oversight Committee told CBSNews.com. According to the spokesperson, Lerner's lawyer -- William Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, who has represented high-profile clients like Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- told the committee that Lerner is currently in Montreal.

As director of exempt organizations at the IRS, Lerner learned as early as June 2011 that the agency flagged group titles with "tea party," "patriot," or "9/12 Project" for supplementary review. She told those involved to alter this practice "immediately," according to the TITGA report. She did not, however, inform Congress about this.

Three other witnesses have confirmed to the Oversight Committee that they will testify on Wednesday: George, the inspector general; Treasury Department deputy secretary Neil Wolin; and former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman.

Shulman testified in March 2012 that the IRS did not discriminate against any groups. He stepped down as IRS commissioner when his term ended in November.

While the TIGTA report gave Congress some of the information it was looking for, a spokesperson for the Oversight Committee said the committee plans to ask several follow up questions to the report, such as who came up with the criteria for singling out conservative groups, and why Congress or the American people weren't informed about the misconduct as soon as high-level officials learned about it.

The Senate in the next week also plans on holding hearings on the scandal. The Senate Finance Committee has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has had closed-door meetings with Miller, but the witness list for Tuesday's hearing has yet to be released.

In a statement, Baucus said that he and the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have been compiling questions on the controversy and have requested additional documents from the IRS. "There seem to be some inconsistencies in the timeline regarding who knew what when, and we will get to the bottom of it," he said. "There needs to be a full accounting of what happened at the IRS, who knew what, when, and how long did this practice go on for? And what other groups were flagged for additional scrutiny?"

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, led by Hatch, sent a letter to George on Thursday asking him to conduct a full investigation into the leak of nine conservative groups' confidential applications for tax-exempt status.

In November 2012, the journalist group ProPublica filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the 501(c)(4) applications of 67 nonprofit social welfare organizations. The IRS handed over documents submitted by 31 groups,including applications from nine organizations that were still under consideration by the IRS. Federal law, however, prohibits the improper disclosure of such confidential information.

Beyond the immediate questions of misconduct, Baucus noted that the scandal raises issues that he and the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp should delve into during negotiations over tax reform.

"Is there a fault in the tax code that may have contributed to the IRS taking such unacceptable steps?" he asked. "Do we need a better definition of what organizations qualify for tax exemptions? Do we need to revisit the role tax-exempt organizations play in our political system? What part of the tax code has to change for us to guarantee this overreach never happens again? There are many more questions."

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