WASHINGTON — The Bush administration appointee who led the Internal Revenue Service during President Barack Obama's first term told Congress on Tuesday that he was saddened by some of the agency's actions regarding applications for tax-exempt status during his tenure.
But Douglas Shulman rebuffed attempts by some members of the Senate Finance Committee to blame him for the fiasco in which conservative groups were listed separately for special scrutiny.
"I certainly am not personally responsible for making a list that had inappropriate criteria on it," Shulman said, adding: "With that said, this happened on my watch, and I very much regret that this happened on my watch."
Asked at one point by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, whether he would apologize to Cornyn's constituents who were unfairly targeted by the IRS, Shulman said that he was not sure what occurred specifically with Texas-based groups and announced his regret that the wrongdoing occurred on his watch.
"Well, I don't think that qualifies as an apology," Cornyn said.
The confrontation Tuesday was one more example of the growing acrimony surrounding congressional efforts to get to the bottom of the IRS targeting scandal. The outgoing acting IRS commissioner, his predecessor and the Treasury Department tax watchdog all rejected the idea that political partisanship played any role in singling out conservative nonprofits for heightened scrutiny.
The theatrics are expected to continue today when Shulman appears at a second hearing, this time before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He will be joined in the witness chairs by J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration; Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin; and Lois Lerner, head of the IRS's tax-exempt organizations office, where the problems occurred.
Lerner will invoke her right not to testify for fear of self-incrimination, her attorney told the House committee in a letter Tuesday.
Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Steven Miller, the acting commissioner who submitted his resignation under pressure last week, sat alongside Shulman, who headed the IRS from March 2008 to November 2012.