A new bill from Sen. Tim Scott, R.-S.C., seeks to strip perceived partisanship from the IRS, and its No. 1 target is employee unions.
Scott introduced the End the Partisan IRS Culture, or EPIC, Act on Nov. 6, a bill that seeks to exempt the revenue agency from collective bargaining to remove what he sees as an unfair political bias created by its employee unions.
"The American people should be able to trust that the Internal Revenue Service is running as efficiently as possible, and not being used by any president as a blunt force tool to enact revenge on political enemies," Scott said, in a statement.
The idea to remove collective bargaining and labor organizing from the IRS came up first in August, when the a GOP recommendation within the Senate Finance Committee's report on the IRS's handling of 501(c)(3) groups suggested extending an exemption normally reserved for agencies involved in national security or otherwise require employees to remain apolitical.
Those agencies normally include the GAO, FBI, CIA, NSA, Secret Service and others, but Scott said that in the wake of the Lois Lerner scandal—where it was alleged the some Tea Party groups faced discrimination regarding the state of their nonprofit statuses—that the political bias of employee unions has affected the agency.
"Unionization has led to hundreds of employees working solely on union issues instead of serving the American people, with 95 percent of the political donations from these union dues going to Democrats."
The Department of Justice announced on Oct. 23, that it would not pursue criminal charges in the Lerner scandal, in which the former head of the IRS's Exempt Organizations Unit was accused of placing greater scrutiny on Tea Party organizations applying for nonprofit status.
But Scott said that beyond the Lerner case, union members were also exerting political influence on the job, claims Republicans also noted in the Senate report.
"We should put the 200-plus employees currently doing union work back to serving the American taxpayers, not their union bosses and the politicians they support," Scott said. "They should be processing refunds and answering taxpayers' phone calls rather than letting almost 9 million Americans be hung up on with a 'courtesy disconnect.'"
The National Treasury Employees Union, which counts 49,000 IRS employees as members, released a statement decrying the bill, saying it would prove more harmful for agency employees, who were never a part of the Lerner investigation.
"This legislation would take away long-held rights from front-line federal employees, the statement said. "All bipartisan and non-partisan investigations into issues involving the processing of tax-exempt status applications at the IRS found no evidence of intentional wrongdoing or political motivation by front-line IRS workers. That includes the bipartisan report by the Senate Finance Committee, on which Sen. Scott serves.
"Rather, all of the independent investigations found that the processing problems were the result of mismanagement. It makes no sense to punish rank-and-file employees at the IRS by taking away their workplace rights and leaving them with no protection against retaliation or other potential management abuses when they did nothing wrong."
As for extending the exemption to prevent perceived political bias at the IRS, NTEU officials refuted that union membership has fueled partisanship within federal agencies.
"For more than 35 years, the provisions of the federal labor-management statute have been applied in a manner consistent with national security requirements and with no lapse in the ability of federal agencies to enforce laws and carry out the missions of the U.S. government. Current law specifies that becoming a member of a federal labor union is voluntary and that union dues are not to be used for contributions to federal candidates."