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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 17th, 2013
07:07 PM ET

Rep. Paul Ryan: We're not getting straight answers on IRS

One flashpoint at Friday’s House hearing on IRS targeting of  conservative political groups seeking tax-exempt status occurred between acting agency chief Steven Miller and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.

The Wisconsin Republican and former vice presidential nominee was frustrated that Miller, who was briefed on the controversial IRS practices last May, failed to mention it in subsequent letters to Congress and in hearing testimony just two months later.

"How can we not conclude that you did not mislead this committee?" Ryan asked Miller at Friday's Ways and Means Committee hearing.

"I did not mislead the committee, I stand by my answer then, I stand by my answer now," Miller responded.

Ryan told CNN the committee has more questions for the IRS, including whether it targeted other organizations.

"We're getting lots of questions with respect to religious groups and other kinds of groups," said Ryan.

Ryan said the IRS withheld information from Congress during investigations conducted last year.

"We were receiving all of these reports of this kind of harassment. We questioned the IRS in hearings, in letters, and the IRS withheld all of this information that they were in possession of, as to whether this targeting was occurring or not," said Ryan.

"We do now know that this targeting did occur, that it was politically biased. It was only of conservative groups," said Ryan.

"I do not believe partisanship motivated the people engaged in the practices described in the Treasury Inspector General's report," Miller said at Friday's hearing. "I think what happened here, was that foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be efficient in their workload selection."

But Ryan told CNN that when the committee reviewed applications that were processed, liberal groups with the words "progressive" or "organizing" in them were not targeted.

"They specifically targeted groups with conservative wording, with conservative ideas, who were worried about the direction government was going," said Ryan.

"They did single out groups because of their conservative political philosophy. That's just the facts. That's what we now know, not just from the Inspector General's report, but from the acknowledgement by the acting commissioner of the IRS himself," said Ryan.

There is a debate going on within the Republican Party about whether the Republican-led House is over reaching. At least a third of the committees on Capitol Hill are now investigating the Obama administration.

Some Republicans urge caution, that this could end up like 1998 when Republicans were in the throes of driving the Clinton impeachment and other investigations of his administration.

At the end of that election cycle, they lost seats in the House because the public believed Republicans were more concerned with partisanship and investigations than protecting the national interest.

"I don't want this to be a political endeavor, I want this to be a truth-seeking endeavor so that we can restore trust and confidence in our government," said Ryan.

The IRS hearing comes at the end of a difficult week for the Obama administration, with revelations that the Justice Department secretly collected months of phone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press; renewed criticism and accusations of a cover-up over the White House’s response to the Benghazi attack; and news that U.S. Marshals lost track of former terrorists put in witness protection.

For those in Congress focused on beating up the administration, that’s a lot to keep them busy.

But at the same time, there are pressing needs in the economy and immigration reform.

"We can walk and chew gum at the same time," said Ryan.

Ryan said he and a bipartisan group in the House reached an "agreement of principle" on immigration reform on Thursday night, and that the Ways and Means Committee is still working on comprehensive tax reform with Sen. Max, D-Montana.

"We have to do our job to our constituents to do oversight of the federal government. We're not getting straight answers on Benghazi. Clearly, we're not getting straight answers on the IRS. Clearly, we're worried about intimidation of the press with respect to ... the DOJ scandal," said Ryan.

"But that doesn't mean we're just going to only do that. We are going to do these other policy initiatives," said Ryan.

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