The sequester has imposed budget cuts across a vast range of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense. But the Internal Revenue Service evidently intends to avoid the $70 million in spending reductions that it was supposed to achieve by eliminating employee bonuses.
Even without the recent revelations about IRS abuses, that infuriating development would tax both logic and public patience.
The Obama administration, enforcing the 2011 sequester agreement for sweeping budget reductions after Congress failed to meet its March 1 deadline for more specific spending cuts, ordered the IRS to cancel its discretionary bonuses.
However, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday that the IRS has agreed with its employees’ union to pay those bonuses despite that executive directive issued in April.
Sen. Grassley expressed frustration that should be widely shared: “The IRS always claims to be short on resources. But it appears to have $70 million for union bonuses. And it appears to be making an extra effort to give the bonuses despite opportunities to renegotiate with the union, and federal instruction to cease discretionary bonuses during sequestration.”
Asked about Sen. Grassley’s concerns, an IRS spokesperson acknowledged that it is negotiating with the National Treasury Employees Union over this issue. She did not deny Sen. Grassley’s warning that the bonuses were coming soon.
Unfortunately, though, we appear to be in for a long wait before fully learning the who, what, where, when, why and how of the IRS’ outrageous targeting of conservative groups over up to the last three years.
That abuse includes not just denials of tax-exempt status, but audits and even releases of donor information. High-ranking IRS officials have stonewalled when questioned by Congress. The agency has tried — and failed — to blame all of the misconduct on its tax-exempt center in Cincinnati.
Lois Lerner, former head of the IRS tax-exempt division, even pleaded the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer lawmakers’ questions.
Keep in mind, the IRS, fresh off this proliferating scandal, is scheduled to play a major role in the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act next year.
Now here’s a new question for the IRS:
Why should an agency that unfairly — and perhaps illegally — targeted applications for tax-exempt status be exempt from sequester cuts of its bonuses?