Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said Friday that the IRS's reported computer crashes that led to two years' worth of lost emails shows that the IRS needs more funding for a more modern information technology system.
Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways & Means Committee, rejected the Republican idea that the IRS is hiding or lost Lois Lerner's emails on purpose, and said all evidence points to a computer crash.
House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), right, said Friday the IRS needs more money to boost its IT systems. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards
"There is absolutely no evidence… to show that Ms. Lerner's computer crash was anything more than equipment failure," he said.
Levin then blamed Republicans for repeatedly cutting funds the IRS would have used to modernize its IT system.
"Was her computer crash a conspiracy? No," he said. "Was the Internal Revenue Services's system for backing up its email system entirely underfunded and wholly deficient? Clearly yes."
"In fact, Congress has cut the IRS budget for operations, which includes what it spends on computers and other information technology, every year for the last five years."
Levin concluded by saying the government needs to "invest" more in the IRS to improve its information management system. "Lost data under the Bush administration, coupled with the number of computer crashes at the IRS, clearly demonstrate the need for government agencies to have adequate budgets to invest, upgrade and maintain information technology," he said.
Levin's comments were echoed by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who accused Republicans of purposefully underfunding the IRS in order to undermine the progressive taxation system.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she agrees that more money is needed for the IRS.
“What the missing emails tell me… is they need a new technology system at the IRS,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday. "I think they need to upgrade their technology, get it right, so that there’s no suspicion about what agenda anyone may have on that."
Democrats at the Friday hearing spent most of their time defending IRS Commissioner John Koskinen from Republican criticism. Many complained that Republicans were too aggressive in their questioning and refused to let him answer their questions.
Several Republicans asked Koskinen for yes or no answers to questions, and interrupted him when he tried to deliver longer answers. The hearing was marked by several interruptions from Democrats who complained about how Koskinen was treated, and used their time to let Koskinen state his point of view.