– Today, Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) utilized a one minute floor speech to show the President where the IRS is located on the executive branch organization chart, educate the President on the legal definition of the term “independent agency,” apprise the President that Congress gave him the power to fire the IRS Commissioner, and admonish the President for his latest effort to pass the buck.
During his press conference on Monday, President Obama actually said: “If in fact IRS personnel … were intentionally targeting conservative groups … they have to be held fully accountable because the IRS as an independent agencyrequires absolute integrity.”
Numerous media outlets quoted or paraphrased the President’s obvious misstatement of law and fact without correcting it. For example a USA Today story reported, “Noting that the IRS is an ‘independent agency,’ Obama said the tax laws must be applied in ‘a neutral and non-partisan way.’” It took The New York Times three days to begrudgingly and belatedly correct the President: “But the president misspoke on Monday when he said that the I.R.S. was an ‘independent agency.’ It is not.”
For more than three quarters of a century – ever since the Supreme Court’s seminal Humphrey’s Executor decision in 1935, it has been universally recognized that Congress makes an agency independent (i.e., not subject to the direction and political control of the President) by including a “removable by the President only for cause” provision in an agency’s organic statute.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a bureau within the Department of the Treasury, which is an executive branch department headed by a cabinet officer. The statute that creates the IRS Commissioner position empowers the President to appoint him (with the advice and consent of the Senate), empowers the Secretary to prescribe his duties, and empowers the President to remove him. In other words, the Treasury Secretary and the IRS Commissioner beneath him serve at the pleasure of the President. They are both at-will employees whom the President can fire at any time for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all.