Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said President Barack Obama’s administration is fostering a “culture of intimidation” that encourages government workers to suppress free speech.
McConnell said the controversy over the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing Tea Party groups is validating his long-held concerns over how government power can be abused.
“What we are dealing with here is larger than the actions of one agency or a group of employees,” he said in a speech today at the American Enterprise Institute, a free-market group in Washington. “This administration has institutionalized the practice of pitting bureaucrats against the very people they’re supposed to be serving, and it needs to stop.”
McConnell, 71, of Kentucky, has long been one of Obama’s fiercest critics. Senate rules allow him and other Republicans in the minority to obstruct the administration’s agenda or insist that it be scaled back.
He criticized public-sector labor unions and defended tax rules that allow “social welfare” groups such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Sierra Club environmental group to be involved in politics and avoid disclosing their donors.
“There’s a very good and legitimate reason that courts have protected folks from forced disclosure —- because they know that failing to do so would subject them to the kind of harassment that we’ve been seeing here the past few years,” said McConnell, who is running for a sixth term next year.
McConnell said he didn’t expect investigations to reveal direct White House involvement in the IRS decision to give extra scrutiny to anti-tax Tea Party groups.
“The president himself has been demonizing these people” in groups opposed to him, he said. “It’s not surprising that the bureaucracy would pick up on that and think that maybe that’s what they’re supposed to do.”
He said the investigations in the House should continue to uncover facts about the IRS’s actions.
“I don’t think we ought to jump to any conclusions,” he said.
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