Werfel, a veteran of federal fiscal agencies such as the Office of Management and Budget who most recently headed up Boston Consulting Group’s global public practice, drew the support of six Republicans. He appeared headed toward confirmation on Wednesday before Democratic leaders postponed the vote as the chamber continued debating abortion legislation and an effort to block a progressive D.C. crime law.
In a floor speech Wednesday, Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) lauded Werfel’s competency and professionalism, citing the nominee’s experience navigating turbulent political waters as acting commissioner of the IRS in 2013 when the agency came under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
“He helped right the ship and improve confidence in the IRS,” Wyden said.
Werfel will face pressure from Democrats to show results from the new funding by boosting audit rates on wealthy taxpayers, which have plunged in recent years, as well as improving customer service, faster processing of tax returns and refunds, and upgrades of the agency’s ancient IT infrastructure and computer systems.
House Republicans have also promised to haul the IRS commissioner before oversight committees to testify on leaks of taxpayer data and whether the agency will be using its new funding to pursue middle-class taxpayers and small businesses — despite a pledge from Biden to not increase taxes on those making less than $400,000.
Werfel seemed to have provided reassurance on at least some of those issues to the GOP members who voted for him: Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana.
“Sometimes when you interview these nominees you get a sense of whether or not they have genuine plans,” said Young. “[Werfel] volunteered to me some of the plans he has to improve operations, but he also showed the requisite humility for a manager stepping into an environment where there’ll be certain new discoveries.”
Manchin, on the other hand, has been battling the Treasury Department over what he considers misguided interpretations of legislation Democrats pushed into law last summer expanding tax credits for electric vehicles and a slew of other green energy programs. Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) largely wrote that legislation.
“While Daniel Werfel is supremely qualified to serve as the IRS Commissioner, I have zero faith he will be given the autonomy to perform the job in accordance with the law and for that reason, I cannot support his nomination,” Manchin said in a statement.
Brian Faler contributed to this report.
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