WASHINGTON — Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said the testimony of two former commissioners of the Internal Revenue Service Tuesday did not impress him.
“I don’t think we got a lot of answers and the conversation needs to continue,” the Colorado Democrat said in a brief interview as he walked to his Senate office.
Bennet is a member of the Senate Finance Committee which called on former IRS heads Douglas Shulman and Steven Miller to explain the origins of the unfolding scandal.
The two ex-chiefs said they did not know who authorized IRS officials to target organizations seeking tax-exempt status with the words “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” and “9/12″ in their title.
Bennet’s comment contrasts with his public statements last year that singled out an organization a former George W. Bush campaign official founded as an example of a group worthy of additional IRS scrutiny. Yet it is consistent with the political strategy of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the organization of which he serves as chairman.
On the group’s website Friday, a DSCC aide advised Senate Democratic candidates to adopt a sober, non-partisan approach to the Obama administration scandals.
“What matters is how any candidate — Democratic or Republican — handles the matter. Be sincere about getting to the bottom of it and decisive about what should be done …” the DSCC aide wrote.
DSCC officials say they expect Republicans to misjudge public opinion on the scandals and seek an uncompromising line on the scandals by tying them to President Obama. “GOP Overreach: 2014 Could Look Like a Lot Like 1998,” the aide wrote, referring to the mid-term elections in President Clinton’s second term in which Republicans failed to pick up additional seats.
A DSCC spokesman did not return a call for an expanded comment.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Rep. Tom Davis have warned Republicans not to overplay their hand on the Obama administration scandals.
Both a Rasmussen poll in March and a Quinnipiac University survey in May found that Americans trust Democrats on more issues than Republicans. But both polls were conducted before the White House scandals broke.
A more recent Rasmussen poll conducted last week revealed that most Americans believe that the IRS investigations into conservative non-profit groups were “politically motivated,” that President Obama or his top aides were aware that the IRS was improperly targeting conservative non-profit groups, and that those responsible should be fired or sent to jail.
A top Senate Republican aide suggested the party’s Senate candidates were more likely to benefit from fallout over implementation of the Affordable Care Act, known more commonly as Obamacare.
The aide noted that Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) hemorrhaged support after the conservative group Club for Growth ran a six-figure TV campaign ad that highlighted his support for Obama’s health care law, as well as the 2008 Wall Street bailout package and the 2009 economic stimulus bill.
Thirty-five Senate seats are open in 2014. Democrats must defend 21 seats and Republicans 14.