The House voted Monday to cut more than $1 billion from the IRS's tax enforcement budget, giving Republicans a big helping of revenge against an agency they've battled all year.
Members of the House this week are considering the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2015. The bill being debated on the House floor would already cut IRS funding by $341 million compared to the current fiscal year.
Late Monday, members went further by considering amendments to chop even more from the proposed $10.95 billion IRS budget. And the big cuts were approved easily in voice votes, demonstrating how little appetite there is among Democrats to defend the IRS in the wake of its effort to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
The biggest reduction came from Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), who proposed a whopping $788 million cut from the IRS's $5 billion tax enforcement budget.
"The IRS has been targeting American taxpayers, as we've learned, for their political beliefs for the last four or five years," Huizenga said. "During this period, a culture of shading the truth was fostered and developed by directors and administrators throughout the IRS.
"Now this culture within the IRS has grown to one of stonewalling, double-talk and mistrust. It's up to Congress to use the power of the purse… to rein in the IRS and force them to conduct their analysis in an unbiased manner."
The huge cut was approved in a voice vote.
Moments earlier, the House voice-vote approved another amendment from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to eliminate another $353 million from IRS enforcement funds. The House also approved amendments from Reps. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to chop another $3 million from the same account.
By the end of the night, the House had cut a total of $1.144 billion from the IRS's enforcement account, a reduction of more than 20 percent.
The House could be in a position to finish work on the 2015 spending bill on Tuesday. Before finishing, however, it will likely pass one more amendment from Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), which would cut another $10 million from the IRS enforcement budget.
The GOP's proposed cuts aren't guaranteed, as the Senate will still have a chance to consider the House-passed spending bill. But the clear House preference for some cuts means the IRS will likely have to live with much less money in 2015 than it had in 2014.
Republicans have crawled all over the IRS in the first half of 2014 in a search for evidence that former IRS employee Lois Lerner and others purposefully subjected conservative groups to extra scrutiny when they sought tax-exempt status.
Earlier this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released an email showing that Lerner was worried about the idea that Congress might seek out various IRS emails. In mid-June, the IRS said a computer crash prevented it from recovering more than two years' worth of Lerner's emails.