Lawmakers pressing for more heads to roll at the Internal Revenue Service are going to be disappointed.

“Why weren’t more people fired?” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) demanded at a hearing Tuesday on the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, channeling the frustration of his colleagues.

Turns out it’s not so easy.

In fact, it appears that no one has been formally reprimanded and a spokesperson for the union representing IRS workers said it hasn’t been called to help any employees yet. Most employees involved in the targeting program are covered by protections for federal workers that could drag out the termination process.

The pressure is building: Lois Lerner, the director of the tax-exempt division at the IRS that oversaw the controversial program, will invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Wednesday.

The GOP is also calling for the resignation of Sarah Hall Ingram, an official who used to work in the tax-exempt division and who now oversees the agency’s implementation of the health care overhaul.

Here’s a quick guide to what it would take to show IRS officials the door:

Fire them — and brace for the appeals

The incoming acting IRS Commissioner, Daniel Werfel, could try to clean house — but he’d have to be prepared for a lengthy appeals process.

Under federal rules, a fired government worker has the right to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. He or she can challenge the decision, argue that their actions don’t meet the threshold for termination and ask to be reinstated — especially if there was no warning of trouble in past performance reviews.

The board is set up so fired employees appealing their termination get two chances to prove they should stay. Their first stop is at the merit board’s regional level, which — for the Cincinnati-based IRS employees in question — would be in Chicago.

The initial appeals take an average of 93 days to process, said William Spencer, a spokesman for the board.

Continue reading →