Republicans oppose other recommendations from the president’s State of the Union address, including automatic increases in the minimum wage, a pre-kindergarten program funded by higher cigarette taxes and more federal money for highways and bridge repair.
In a clash that long predates the IRS controversy, Senate Republicans seem intent on blocking Obama’s nomination of Tom Perez as labor secretary. Gina McCarthy’s nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency is also on hold, at least temporarily, and Democrats expect Republican opposition awaits Penny Pritzker, Obama’s choice for commerce secretary.
Rhetorically, the two parties fell into two camps when it came to the White House troubles. Democrats tended to describe them as controversies, Republicans often used less flattering terms.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., accused the administration of fostering a “culture of intimidation.” He referred to the IRS, the handling of the Benghazi attack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ “fundraising among the industry people she regulates on behalf of the president’s health care law.”
Two days later, Camp, a 23-year veteran lawmaker, opened the IRS hearing by calling the agency’s actions part of a “culture of cover-ups and intimidation in this administration.” He offered no other examples.
Rep. Trey Radel, a first-term Florida Republican, said in an interview, “What we’re looking at now is a breach of trust” from the White House.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California offered a scathing response when asked if the controversies would hamper Obama’s ability to win legislation from the Republican-controlled House. “Well, the last two years there was nothing that went through this Congress, and it was no AP, IRS or any other (thing) that we were dealing with.”
“They just want to do nothing. And their timetable is never,” she said of GOP lawmakers.
Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave no ground on Benghazi, a dispute that increasingly centered on talking points written for administration officials to use on television after the attack last September in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
“It’s obvious it’s an attempt to embarrass President Obama and embarrass Hillary Clinton,” he said of Republican criticism that first flared during last year’s election campaign.
On a third front, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., resurrected legislation that would requiring a judge to approve subpoenas for news media communications records when investigating news leaks said to threaten the national security. It was a response to the FBI’s secret, successful pursuit of Associated Press phone records in a current probe.
While Democrats counterattacked on Benghazi and parried on leaks, they bashed the IRS’ treatment of conservative groups as improper if not illegal — and warned Republicans not to overplay their hand.