The government can’t reopen itself — but it can apparently accommodate deep-pocketed lobbyists.
The Treasury Department reinstated an Internal Revenue Service program essential to the mortgage industry this week after the powerful lending block launched a lobbying effort amid an ongoing government shutdown set to become the longest in history.
Even though 800,000 federal employees are going without paychecks due the shutdown induced by President Trump’s border wall obsession, Treasury officials worked behind the scenes to make sure mortgage lenders are still able to have their forms processed by the IRS, allocating revenue from fees to bring back and pay wages for hundreds of furloughed tax clerks.
The department, which is headed by Trump’s millionaire Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, tried to paint the reopening as a boon to consumers.
“We were advised by various parties that the shutdown of (the program) was creating significant issues for certain borrowers,” the Treasury said in a statement first reported by The Washington Post. “We are pleased to help taxpayers by ensuring this service continues despite the lapse.”
Democrats and tax experts called bull.
“The White House has played fast and loose with shutdown regulations in numerous departments,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted, “but this is a scandal.”
The Treasury program reopening came after the Mortgage Bankers Association reached out directly to one of Mnuchin’s top deputies, according to Robert Broeksmit, the association’s chief executive.
“I said, ‘Look, this is starting to be a problem for the lending industry,’” Broeksmit told The Post.
Broeksmit, who’s lobbying group represents 2,300 mortgage companies, brokers and banks, said he then posed the question, “Could you make these guys essential?” — a reference used during federal furloughs to describe employees considered so integral to operations that they have to work without pay if need be.
The very next day, Broeksmit said Treasury informed him the IRS program would reopen and clerks be brought back with full pay.
“I’d like to take some credit,” Broeksmit said. “Our direct request got quite rapid results.”
The mortgage banking industry stands to earn millions of dollars in fees in light of the freshly reopened program.
Meanwhile, federal employees went without paychecks Friday, as the government shutdown entered its 21st day.