U.S. Senate panel votes to confirm Obama's pick for IRS chief

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:21pm EST

John Koskinen (R) returns from a break with Committee Chairman Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) (2nd L) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (L) to resume testimony before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the Capitol Hill in Washington, December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

John Koskinen (R) returns from a break with Committee Chairman Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) (2nd L) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (L) to resume testimony before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the Capitol Hill in Washington, December 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel voted on Friday to confirm President Barack Obama's choice to be the next Internal Revenue Service commissioner, sending his nomination to the full Senate.

In a voice vote, the Senate Finance Committee, as expected, confirmed John Koskinen to be the next chief tax collector. The earliest the full Senate could vote would be on Monday.

Koskinen is a 74-year-old lawyer with little tax experience, but is an adept manager with a reputation as a trouble-shooter. He would replace the IRS's acting commissioner, Danny Werfel.

Koskinen would join the IRS as it recovers from its worst crisis in more than a decade. In May, the agency apologized for targeting conservative political groups inappropriately and the furor that ensued cost Werfel his job.

Before the committee vote, some Republicans complained that Democrats rushed Koskinen's nomination. His confirmation hearing ended on Wednesday, leaving little time for following up, they said.

Republican Senator Pat Roberts said he voted against Koskinen out of "frustration" with the way Republicans had been treated by Democrats, who have a majority in the 100-member Senate.

After years of Republicans blocking or delaying Obama's picks for various positions, Democrats voted to reduce to a simple majority from 60 the number of votes needed to end a filibuster against nominees, except those for the Supreme Court.

"The breakdown of the rules and tradition of the Senate ... has been allowed to infect the workings of this committee," said Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who voted for Koskinen.

(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Vicki Allen)

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