After Friday’s Ways & Means Committee hearing, Beltway focus on IRS “scandal” continues unabated. But there are some shifting sands “behind the headlines.”
1. With impressive speed, congressional Republicans are seeking to link IRS scrutiny of organizations applying for 501(c)(4) status to general negative perceptions of the agency, particularly with respect to tax audits of individuals (not at issue in the tax-exempts’ cases) and alleged IRS hostility to conservative religious groups. A leading indicator: a bill introduced by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) suspending all IRS tax audits for 18 months until the depths of the “scandal” are plumbed.
2. Public opinion research continues to show tepid public reaction to “Obama scandals.” A new CNN-ORC survey shows Obama’s job approval rating actually increasing to 53% as of late last week. Poll internals show belief in major presidential wrongdoing in Benghazi and IRS cases still mostly limited to Republicans and conservative independents.
3. Senate Judiciary Committee has already disposed of 99 amendments to the Gang of Eight-based immigration reform bill, and plans to report bill to the floor by week’s end. Most successful amendments look more like standard senatorial constituency-tending rather than effort to tweak the overall shape of the bill. Having avoided a meltdown last week, the House “Gang of Eight” group working on immigration reform seems to have gone back to ground, satisfied for the moment with an “agreement in principle.”
4. Democrats looking ahead to 2016 are buzzing about the Jason Horowitz Washington Post piece on turnover in HillaryLand since 2008. Of particular interest to progressives suspicious of HRC is the apparent self-exile of pollster and “chief strategist” Mark Penn, now working for Microsoft and disclaiming interest in politics.