"Americans should take notice that top Obama administration officials
increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the
belief that they don't have to answer to anyone," said House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., one of
the lead investigators of the administration in Congress.
The president himself has tried to distance himself from the IRS
case, saying on Monday that he learned about it "from the same news
reports" as most Americans. He condemned the targeting of conservative
activists by tax authorities, saying, if true, the actions were
On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said he had ordered an investigation of the IRS.
But congressional Democrats are wondering what took the White House
so long. Already, top Democratic lawmakers have signaled they won't have
the administration's back if the IRS scandal spreads to the White
On Monday alone, Reid called the IRS' actions "completely
inappropriate." Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.,
said it was an "outrageous abuse of power and a breach of the public's
trust," while warning the tax agency to brace for a full investigation.
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of Obama's fiercest
defenders on the Hill, said the IRS' actions deserved to be "condemned."
This Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing
probing the IRS, which was announced jointly by the top Republican and
Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
In contrast, those questioning the Benghazi attacks remain firmly
divided along party lines. President Obama called questions
about altered talking points "a sideshow" on Monday and congressional
Democrats have largely gone along.
In the emerging case of the Justice Department seizing phone records
of the Associated Press, Reid's comments calling the actions
"inexcusable" was the most prominent of a growing number of cracks in a
unified front to have emerged.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont,
said Monday he was "very troubled by these allegations and wants to hear
the government's explanation." And freshman Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.,
issued a statement Tuesday saying, "It's incumbent on the Justice
Department to explain why they've seized telephone records from
reporters and editors at The Associated Press so that their actions
don't have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press."
A critical test will come on Wednesday, when Holder himself will
appear before the House Judiciary Committee in an oversight hearing that
is now expected to include heavy questioning about the tapping of
How aggressively panel Democrats go after Holder will be a strong
indicator of whether Democratic lawmakers will continue to toe a party
line still defined by 1600 Pennsylvania.