Morning Action: Lois Lerner and the IRS Investivation
IRS. Heritage legal expert Hans von Spakovsky, who has worked for both the DOJ and the FEC, explains the lost Lois Lerner emails are more evidence the Justice Department is not taking the IRS investigation seriously:
I have worked at two federal agencies—the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission. At both agencies, I was involved in internal investigations of employees accused of wrongdoing in which we had to obtain all of their email records. The “loss” of emails the IRS is describing is hard to fathom: Both agencies where I worked backed up all email communications every day, and those backups were separately stored so there could be no loss of these records. And neither the main server nor the backup tapes differentiated between internal emails and external emails that I’m aware of.
Even if Lois Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed, as the IRS claims, there should be backup tapes. But there, the IRS’s claim gets even more bizarre. The IRS says that the “back-up tapes from 2011 no longer exist because they have been recycled (which [is] not uncommon for large organizations in both the private and public sectors).” But the IRS is not an organization in the private sector. It is a government agency subject to federal records preservation requirements. IRS officials knew the agency would be under scrutiny and obligated to preserve all of its records related to the inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations by May 2013, when the Inspector General report was released and Attorney General Eric Holder announced he was opening a criminal investigation.
DEFENSE SPENDING. Today the House begins a two-day debate on the $540.4 billion Defense spending bill (sub. req’d):
Numerous amendments will be considered. One that might get a vote is a proposal to block use of the bill’s funds for any combat operations in Iraq, CQ Roll Call’s Frank Oliveri reports . We may also see another attempt to ensure funding for A-10 attack jets, money that’s not in the underlying bill. More broadly, the House will approve, in addition to the $491 billion in the base bill, a $79.4 billion blank check for the war budget, because the details of the Overseas Contingency Operations request are not expected on Capitol Hill until sometime later this month.
SCHOOL FOOD. Senate Democrats may have to debate a delay in school nutrition standards (sub. req’d):
Senate Democrats may be forced to debate a delay in school nutrition standards. Sen. John Hoeven , R-N.D., is considering offering an amendment to the minibus spending bill ( HR 4660 ) that includes the fiscal 2015 Agriculture appropriations measure ( S 2389 ).
But he indicated his plans hinge on whether he can get a commitment from Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow to address the issue in the upcoming re-authorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (PL 111-296 ), which required the Department of Agriculture to upgrade the standards. The Senate bill contains a provision Hoeven worked out with Tom Harkin , D-Ia., that would block a reduction in sodium limits set to take effect in 2017, but it doesn’t stop a requirement for 100-percent whole grains set to take effect July 1.
Hoeven said he expects his provision to “get stronger” in conference committee, since a provision in the House Agriculture spending bill ( HR 4800 ) would provide a one-year waiver from the whole-grain standard for schools that can show a financial hardship. “So do we offer another amendment on the floor? Maybe. That depends on the discussions I’m having right now with Stabenow and what we can in authorization,” Hoeven said.