Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Sunday that President Barack Obama needs to personally address the IRS's targeting of conservative political groups.
"I think it's very disappointing that the president hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out," Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” "His spokesman has said that it should be investigated, but the president needs to make crystal clear that this is totally unacceptable in America."
The Internal Revenue Service acknowledged Friday that it had singled out groups with "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their names for additional scrutiny of their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed the actions on a small group of employees.
"It is absolutely chilling" for the IRS to target political groups, said Collins, who is one of the small band of moderate Republicans in the Senate that Democrats often court to get legislation through.
"I just don't buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees. After all, groups with ‘progressive’ in their names were not targeted similarly," Collins added.
"If it had been just a small group of employees, then you would think that the high-level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fire the employees involved and apologized to the American people and informed Congress," she said.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, "This is something we cannot let stand. It needs to have a full investigation."
"I don't care if you're a conservative, a liberal a Democrat or a Republican, this should send a chill up your spine," Rogers added.
The Associated Press reported this weekend that more senior IRS officials knew about the political targeting.
The AP said the head of the IRS division that overseas tax-exempt groups became aware that conservative groups were being targeted for scrutiny in June 2011. The report does not say whether Douglas Shulman, IRS commissioner at the time, was aware of it.
According to a timeline contained in a Treasury Department inspector general report, which is set for release this week, scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status began as early as 2010, and came to the attention of Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS tax-exempt organizations division, at least by the following year.
As early as 2010, IRS agents had been told to be on the lookout for tea-party applications, focusing on groups with names like "Tea Party," "Patriots," "9/12," or "We the People," the report said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Lerner raised concerns in 2011 about the criteria that agents in a Cincinnati IRS office were using to screen applications, according to the report. The criteria were changed in July 2011 to "organizations involved in political, lobbying, or advocacy" seeking exemption under section 501c(3) and 501c(4) of the tax code after Lerner raised concerns, the report said.
Previously, Shulman and other IRS officials, in congressional testimony, had denied targeting tea party groups.