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By Vicki Needham 06/03/13 06:02 PM ET


Tell me a little about yourself: The House Ways and Means Committee will chat with a handful of Tea Party groups on Tuesday about what they say was extra scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in their application for tax-exempt status.

Lawmakers are pretty much picking up where they left off before the Memorial Day recess in drilling down into what happened with the additional attention paid to conservative groups and how to remedy the problem for the long term.

Danny Werfel, the new acting IRS chief, told a House Appropriations subcommittee on Monday that he is trying to do exactly that: fix the problems and put the agency back on good footing.

Werfel, who is no stranger to Capitol Hill, made his first appearance as the agency’s head after former acting Commissioner Steven Miller resigned amid the scandal.

He called the singling out of Tea Party groups inexcusable.

“We have a great deal of work ahead of us to review and correct the serious problems that have occurred at the IRS and continue the important work of the agency on behalf of taxpayers,” Werfel said.

He is beginning a 30-day comprehensive review of the agency, which will go much deeper than just the tax-exempt issue.

“We owe it to the American public to use this moment as an opportunity to take a hard look internally at the IRS and see where other deficiencies or risks may exit, and take action to address them,” he said.

Top appropriators made clear the IRS’s budget will undergo a tough examination in the coming months.Democrats offered little cover to the IRS, but urged a closer look at what happened in the years before the Obama administration.

Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for Tax Administration who outlined the targeting, is expected to release a new report on Tuesday that outlines excessive spending at IRS conferences.

That review found that the IRS spent $50 million on conferences for employees between 2010 to 2012.

George told the panel on Monday that what his probe discovered was “unprecedented,” and that the closest comparison that came to mind was the targeting of political enemies by the administration of Richard Nixon.

A key question is how IRS employees in Cincinnati came to identify tax-exempt applications for extra scrutiny.

Congressional Republicans have expressed disbelief the practice could have been created by low-level employees acting out of bounds. George said in conducting his investigation of the practice, IRS employees were asked who gave the direction, and no one would answer the question.

On Tuesday, Ways and Means will hold their second hearing on the IRS scandal, the fifth overall in Congress, with six Tea Party groups that have been scheduled to give first-person accounts of the IRS’s targeting of conservative organizations.

John Eastman, the president of the National Organization for Marriage — a prominent group opposing same-sex marriage — is among those scheduled to appear, after the group announced plans last month to sue the IRS.

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