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U.S. representative from Butler County draws applause for chastising IRS chief

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 3:42 p.m.
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Supporters applaud after Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, spoke during a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on May 17, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The committee held a hearing to examine the IRS scandal of targeting conservative groups.

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, drew rousing applause from spectators at a congressional hearing on Friday for blistering the IRS' ousted chief for more than five minutes.

“If you think it's uncomfortable sitting over there, you ought to be a private individual when the IRS is across from you questioning. It is uncomfortable for everybody,” Kelly told former Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller.

President Obama fired Miller on Wednesday in the fallout from a growing scandal over the IRS' admission that it targeted conservative organizations for extra scrutiny. Pennsylvania's largest Tea Party group, the Philadelphia-based Independence Hall Tea Party Association, renewed calls on Friday for Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.

“I got to tell you, you talked about you're a horribly run organization? If you're on the other side of the fence, you're not given that excuse,” Kelly said near the end of his allotted time to question Miller during the House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

“When the IRS comes in, you're not allowed to be shoddy. You're not allowed to be run horribly. You're not allowed to make mistakes. You're not allowed to do one damn thing that doesn't come in compliance. If you do, you're held responsible right then. I just think the American people have seen what's going on right now in their government. This is absolutely an overreach. And this is an outrage for all America,” Kelly said, eliciting cheers.

Reached by phone after the hearing, Kelly told the Tribune-Review: “This isn't a Republican issue for me. I represent 705,687 Americans. I think most of them are saying the same thing, that they're fed up with these people. The IRS carries a heavy hammer, and it's not right that they can pick and choose who to go after.”

Kelly, a car dealer, drew parallels between the IRS' treatment of conservative groups and the forced closure of hundreds of dealerships during the government's $85 billion bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

Kelly cited a Treasury Department report that said, “Little or no documentation of the decision-making process to terminate or retain dealerships exists, making it impossible in many cases to determine if decisions deviated from supposedly objective criteria.”

Kelly added, “My colleagues and I have a duty to examine whether auto dealers across the country saw their businesses close as a result of similar political profiling.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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