Move to impeach IRS boss fails, spotlights GOP split

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen talks to reporters after testifying before the House Judiciary Committee for three and a half hours in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill September 21, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Story highlights

  • An impeachment resolution is considered a "privileged matter," which gives it special rules
  • Republicans arguing for Koskinen's removal believe he defied Congress

(CNN)Divisions among House Republicans spilled out onto the House floor late Tuesday when conservatives ignored appeals from their leaders and President-elect Donald Trump's transition team and tried to force a vote to impeach the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The effort failed when rank and file members of both parties sidelined the resolution voting overwhelmingly to refer it to a committee, which effectively kills it for the year.
Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, offered the privileged resolution, which under House rules would have required leaders to schedule a vote on the issue. Top Republican leaders had urged Jordan and other Freedom Caucus members not to force the issue Tuesday and argued if they did it could sidetrack Trump's agenda in the new Congress in January because the issue would have carried over.
    Republicans arguing for Koskinen's removal believe he defied Congress after a scandal in which some agency employees allegedly targeted conservative political groups, despite the fact that Koskinen joined the IRS after the controversy came to light.
    An impeachment resolution is considered a "privileged matter" and would have to be taken up by the Senate immediately. If Senate Republicans wanted to move off the issue they would need 60 votes, meaning the support of some Democrats, to do it.
    That would mean incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer could have been positioned to delay Senate action on the Obamacare repeal, Cabinet nominations and other top legislative items until the impeachment issue was resolved.
    The Trump transition team urged Jordan not to move forward with the resolution, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
    House Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong, defended not moving ahead on Koskinen's impeachment now because of the impact it would have had on top priorities for the incoming president and GOP-led Congress.
    "The majority of the House voted to refer this matter to the Judiciary Committee consistent with regular order because it would have triggered automatic consideration lasting into next year, filling up weeks of floor time and crippling our ability to hit the ground running on Trump administration confirmations and Obamacare repeal.
    Caroline Behringer, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, argued that the conservative Republicans pushing to oust Koskinen were trying to help the incoming president.
    "The House Freedom Caucus is doing President-elect Trump's dirty work for him. Breaking from their own Leadership and regular order, the Republicans' latest quest to impeach the IRS Commissioner comes as the President-elect remains under audit by the IRS."