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Lawmakers ramp up scandal scrutiny, Boehner wants 'jail' for IRS offenders

 

Congressional Republicans -- as well as some Democrats -- are putting the screws to the Obama administration as they investigate a rash of potential scandals, lining up hearings and inquiries as top leaders suggest jail time for the worst offenders. 

"My question isn't about who's going to resign -- my question is who is going to jail over this scandal?" House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. 

The speaker was referring to the IRS practice of singling out Tea Party and other conservative organizations for extra scrutiny -- a practice confirmed in a watchdog's official report this week. 

Republicans and Democrats alike have voiced concern about the program, and both chambers are now planning hearings. The mounting scrutiny has the potential to pull President Obama's second-term agenda off course, just months after his second inauguration. 

The Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a hearing for Friday, summoning IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller as well as Inspector General Russell George to testify. 

Fox News confirms that the Democrat-led Senate Finance Committee plans to hold a hearing on the controversy Tuesday morning. 

Separately, all 45 Republican senators sent a letter to Obama Wednesday demanding access to information and IRS employees as part of congressional inquiries. The letter echoed concerns that, despite a comprehensive inspector general report made public Tuesday, the public still does not know who exactly was behind the creation of the special screening program which left Tea Party groups in limbo for months, and sometimes years. 

"The American people deserve to know what actions will be taken to ensure those who made these policy decisions at the IRS are being held fully accountable and more importantly what is being done to ensure that this kind of raw partisanship is fully eliminated from these critically important non-partisan government functions," the senators wrote. They demanded the administration comply with "all requests" without delay and make available "all IRS employees involved in designing and implementing these prohibited political screenings." 

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured the public Wednesday that those responsible would face "consequences," without going into detail. 

"(Obama) expects people to be held accountable if they engaged in inappropriate activity," Carney said. 

Obama said late Tuesday the behavior described in the IG report was "inexcusable." 

Republicans have seized on several scandals as they apply pressure to the administration -- questions over the administration's response to the Benghazi attack; the IRS' practice of targeting conservatives; and a recent Department of Justice secret subpoena for two months' worth of AP phone records. 

Attorney General Eric Holder faced tough questioning about the record seizure during a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday. 

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also sent a letter to Holder Wednesday asking for more details about his involvement in this matter -- though Holder said Tuesday he had recused himself in that investigation. 

"Over broad, aggressive targeting of the press with criminal investigation potentially imperils the freedom on which our democracy rests," Cornyn wrote. 

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor ticked off all three scandals during a press conference Wednesday, saying lawmakers want to "restore the trust in government." 

Republicans have also criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for reaching out to private-sector executives seeking donations for nonprofit organizations that help enroll people in ObamaCare. 

Democrats have been hesitant to lump all these controversies together. Many still say the outrage over Benghazi is manufactured and partisan. 

"I think you have to separate these issues," Carney said Tuesday. 

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the administration over the IRS and AP controversies. 

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he is "troubled" by the AP phone records grab. 

And Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, told MSNBC that the acting IRS commissioner and head of the exempt organizations division should both be forced out over that controversy. 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News on Wednesday that the IRS practice speaks to a bigger issue. 

"This is an administration that believes if you disagree with them, they need to shut you up," he said. 

Lawmakers plan to probe these scandals on their own, even as Holder announced that his department would be investigating the IRS. Holder said Wednesday his department's investigation could look at possible civil rights violations. 

Boehner said lawmakers still have to find out who exactly was behind the IRS program. 

"Someone made a conscious decision to harass and to hold up these requests for tax-exempt status," he said.