The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Daniel Werfel, the former acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, to lead the IRS.
He was approved in a bipartisan 54-42 vote.
Werfel confirmed to the agency after he was grilled by the Senate Finance Committee last month about how he plans to use the money in new funding coming to the IRS over the next decade, as taxpayers could see increased audit rates. Democrats approved $80 billion for the agency last year in a party-line vote when they approved the anti-inflation bill. Democrats supported the funding to crack down on tax evaders and provide better services to taxpayers, arguing that if the IRS collected more taxes, it could raise federal revenue by more than $100 billion over a 10-year period.
But Republicans have made the IRS and the new funding a political target, saying the money would create additional audits for taxpayers.
Two of the party’s first legislative votes since Republicans took control of the House earlier this year took aim at the IRS. One bill called for rescinding all new funding for the agency and others called for abolishing the IRS entirely. However, since Democrats still control the Senate, it is unlikely that any bill will become law.
Werfel said he was following an earlier directive from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last month
“If I am lucky enough to be confirmed, audit and compliance priorities will focus on improving the IRS’s capabilities to ensure that America’s highest earners comply with applicable tax laws,” Werfel said at a February hearing.
“If poor people are more likely to be audited than rich people, I think that undermines public confidence and needs to be addressed within the tax system,” he added.
But the ranking Republican, Sen. Mike Crabo, Republican of Idaho, pointed out at the time that Yellen’s order left “a lot of wiggle room” and said he was “very concerned” about how the two funds would be used to boost tax enforcement.
“I don’t expect to see any wiggle room on this commitment,” Crabo told Werfel.
The new investment going to the IRS “is not intended to increase taxes on any taxpayer or small business with taxable income under $400,000,” the Inflation Reduction Act says. However, there is some uncertainty about how the IRS will decide whether to increase audits.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat of West Virginia, voted against Werfel’s nomination. He has also opposed many of President Joe Biden’s other recent nominees.
Manchin said his vote against Werfel involved the Biden administration ignoring “the intent of Congress” in implementing the anti-inflation legislation.
“The gentleman for the IRS is very qualified, and he will do a good job. That’s the message I’m sending because the president and his administration are not keeping up with what’s called the Deflation Act,” Manchin said Thursday on “CNN This Morning” before the vote, explaining why he voted against Werfel. . “They said it was strictly an environmental bill.”
Werfel spent seven months as IRS commissioner in 2013 during a difficult time for the agency. His predecessor resigned after the agency targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny.
Prior to working at the IRS, Werfel spent nearly 16 years in the White House Office of Management and Budget, where he served as deputy comptroller and then federal comptroller.
After he left government, Werfel joined the Boston Consulting Group, where he is currently a managing director and partner in the federal and public sector groups.
This story has been updated with additional updates.