Your take: Congress’ treatment of IRS goes too far

We know you’re busy, so here’s your cheat sheet to the stories that Federal News Radio readers are talking about this week on our Facebook page, on Twitter and here on our website. Catch up and add your voice to the conversation.

Listen to Emily Kopp and Jason Miller discuss these stories

The big debate over the IRS:

If the House had listened to Federal News Radio readers, it would have rethought a measure toward the end of the mammoth transportation bill it passed last week. The provision would enable private debt collectors to chase after tax debts — currently the IRS’ job. That experiment has been tried and failed twice before.

“I generally lean conservative on most issues. But the GOP are absolutely wrong on this issue. It’s clear they are still ticked off at IRS & Lois Lerner (and probably rightfully so),” wrote fedrealtor on our website. “But these tactics of cutting off funding to the one agency that collects over 90% of the nations income is simply stupid. The private collection idea has been tried in the past and failed. Taxpayer’s are uncomfortable dealing with private collectors. Especially now a days, ID theft is more likely if PII (personal identity information) is shared with these collection agencies. This is a bad idea … period. And to hide it in the transportation bill is shameless.”

Senate Republicans put the measure in the bill, although it’s hard to know who, exactly, based on what a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

To that, WebJohnson wrote, “I want to know what senators sponsored the bill so we can vote them out next election. And maybe phone bomb them like they want us phone bombed by collectors.”

Advertisement

The House chose not to vote on a Democratic amendment to get rid of the provision. Some readers said it was an odd fight for Democrats to pick.

“Interesting that the Dems are worried about tax payers being subjected to private collectors. The private collectors won’t be bothering tax payers they will go after non-tax payers and convert them to tax payers. Sounds good to me. Why would anyone object to this?” wrote mike moore.

But some people do. The National Treasury Employees Union has vowed to lobby the conference committee appointed to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions.

“The House gave the green light to debt collectors even as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was announcing an expansive program to crack down on abusive debt collection tactics. That’s just wrong,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said in a statement after the vote. “The debt collection industry is one of the most complained about industries.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has other things to worry about, though. House Republicans have called for his impeachment on several grounds, including the way he has reacted to Congress in numerous hearings and written correspondence.

Many readers questioned the choice. If you’re going to pick on Koskinen, what about some other leaders, too? Several suggested Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who famously told the Senate that the National Security Agency did not “wittingly” collect data on Americans.

Things that make you go hmm

The Office of Personnel Management’s new cybersecurity adviser has his job cut out for him. Barely a day on the job and already Clifton Triplett is being evaluated and advised by Federal News Radio readers.

Like OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert, Triplett comes from a global management consultancy, SteelPointe, where he was a managing partner. But are his cyber chops up to the task?

“Do not incorrectly title him as a ‘Cybersecurity Expert.’ His prior experience listed on LinkedIn in no way, shape, or form indicates any cyber security experience. CIO experience yes, cyber security experience, no,” wrote Eddie James.

On the other hand, Triplett could be tops in the cyber world, but a skeptical Dontrayvonius says it won’t make a difference.

“As long as OPM and the fed G thinks anti-virus protection and firewalls are going to be their salvation, they could hire God and they will fail,” they wrote.

The 3 other federal stories you really shouldn’t have missed:

1. Congressional negotiators cut $5 billion from the Defense authorization bill after lawmakers and the White House agreed to a budget deal. Reporter Scott Maucione provided a breakdown of the cuts by program. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) says the fact that there actually is a budget agreement should ease some of the pain.

2. Congress gave agencies a D average for being slow to act on a new IT management law called FITARA.  Executive Editor Jason Miller posted agencies’ individual grades. There are plenty of F’s, highlighted in red, on aspects of the law that include data center consolidation and IT portfolio review savings.

3. Do you hate conference calls? Federal Drive Host Tom Temin is right there with you. His rant about the ornate arrangements, Muzak and stalkers will give you plenty of excuses the next time you’re invited to a call.