POLITICS

Democrat warns new IRS head not to ask for smaller budget

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A Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee told acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Monday to change his testimony after Werfel suggested Congress refrain from increasing the agency’s budget.

Newly appointed Werfel earned the admiration of Republicans in his first face-off with Congress on Monday when he told lawmakers he doesn’t need more money to run the embattled IRS.

“The solution here, in my opinion, is not more money,” Werfel told the committee, which is probing a growing set of agency scandals that include the targeting of conservative groups and excessive spending on staff conferences.

“The solution here in this situation," Werfel said, "is to understand what controls need to be put in place, what oversight, what getting the right leadership in place, the right processes, in a collective way, and then determining” whether the IRS needs more money.

Werfel’s comments appealed immediately to committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

“Mr. Werfel, I’m beginning to like you when you say you don’t want more money,” said Rogers, who is part of an overall GOP effort to reduce government spending. “That’s music to my ears.”

But Werfel got a stern lecture on his frugal ways from Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., a top Democrat on the committee.

Serrano warned Werfel to change his statement, suggesting that if he asked for less money, there would be less IRS oversight and pursuit of tax cheats.

“So what I’m saying to you is friendly advice,” Serrano told Werfel. “Find another way of saying that you will get to the bottom of this without saying, don’t give me any more money. Because, trust me, there are folks here who don’t want to give you more money. In fact, there are some who would like to cut you to the bare bone.”

Werfel then quickly corrected his earlier statement, saying President Obama’s requested increase in the IRS budget, much of it to implement the president's health care reforms, will have “a very positive impact.”

Werfel said his earlier statement applied only to the set of scandals the IRS is now facing. “I wanted to erase any notion that I think this problem can be fixed just with more resources,” Werfel said.

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