Republicans to make Obama pay for scandals

Republicans to make Obama pay for scandals

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Republicans to make Obama pay for scandals

Republican senators step up their efforts to punish the Barack Obama administration over trio of scandals. AP photo

With the Obama administration fighting scandal on three fronts, Republicans smell blood and are stepping up efforts to punish the White House in the run up to the U.S. mid-term 2014 elections.

Lawmakers are investigating the political targeting of conservative groups by tax officials, the administration’s handling last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi and the federal seizure of journalists’ phone records.

“Abuse of power inevitably has political repercussions,” Senator Ted Cruz said after President Barack Obama launched damage limitation drive, sacking his tax chief and releasing a trove of emails on the Libyan incident.

“This is not the way our government is supposed to work, and whenever power is concentrated and unchecked, it’s subject to abuse,” Cruz said.

Democrats are mustering in defense of Obama - despite sharing misgivings about the incident at the Internal Revenue Service - and battling to prevent the scandals from derailing bipartisan legislation.

‘Someone needs to be imprisoned’

Republicans hammered Obama and his team for what House Speaker John Boehner called “remarkable arrogance” - and he and others demanded that any officials found to have broken the law be sent to jail.

“Someone needs to be imprisoned, someone needs to be prosecuted,” said Republican Senator Rand Paul, echoing Boehner’s call a day earlier to jail those responsible for the IRS screening of conservative groups.

With the crises only serving to deepen Republican suspicion of Obama, his ambitious second-term agenda of immigration, gun control, tax reform and a debt reduction deal suddenly seems a much steeper climb.

“There has been certainly a loss of trust, and it’s going to make it more difficult for us to move forward on some very important issues that I think we ought to be talking about,” House Republican Randy Hultgren said.

Steve King, a Tea Party conservative, was more direct in assessing the prospects for Obama’s legislative agenda. “At this point it’s questionable as to whether he has one,” King said. “He’s got three things going on: Benghazi, the AP piece, and the IRS.”

Obama, meanwhile, said he had not known about abuses by tax officials who targeted conservative groups until a report into the affair was leaked to the press last week. “I promise you this. The minute I found out about it, then my focus has been about making sure we get the thing fixed,” Obama told reporters.

He also chose a White House budget official to lead the beleaguered IRS. Danny Werfel, who has been Obama’s point man in overseeing the controversial “sequestration” budget cuts, will tackle the biggest scandal of Obama’s presidency when he takes charge of the IRS on May 22.