President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situation regarding the Internal Revenue Service on May 15, 2013. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
David Jackson, USA TODAY
President Obama and his team are looking to move past last week's parade of scandal stories, but it won't be easy.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer hit the talk show circuit Sunday, but faced more questions about the Internal Revenue Service than about the economy and national security, and Republicans made clear they won't let the issue fade away.
Pfeiffer said the White House did not know about IRS targeting of conservative groups until it was recently alerted about an on-going Inspector General investigation.
The IRS admitted May 10 that it had a separate process for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status submitted by groups with "Tea Party" and related terms in their names. In some cases it also sent intrusive and inappropriate questionnaires to those groups. The inspector general issued a report about the matter last week.
Calling IRS actions "outrageous and inexcusable," Pfeiffer told ABC's This Week that the administration would work with Congress on "legitimate oversight" - but "what we're not going to participate in is partisan fishing expeditions designed to distract from the real issues at hand."
Regardless of when the president first learned of the investigations, Pfeiffer said, the president wants to ensure such activities were not repeated. "It was stopped and it needs to be fixed to ensure it never happens again," Pfeiffer said.
On NBC's Meet the Press, Pfeiffer said Republicans are trying "to drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings and false allegations."
Republicans are gearing up for more congressional hearings, trying to find out if any high-ranking Obama administration or campaign officials knew about the targeting of conservative groups.
"This is just the beginning of this investigation," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Fox News Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told NBC that the recent allegations reflect a "culture of intimidation" within the Obama administration.
"What we're talking about here is an attitude that the government knows best," McConnell said. "And if we start criticizing, you get targeted."
The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday featuring the first appearance by former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman since the scandal broke.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plans a hearing Wednesday that is scheduled to include Shulman and Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS. Lerner is the official who first announced 10 days ago the targeting had taken place.
In his string of Sunday interviews, Pfeiffer noted that Obama has installed a new temporary director of the IRS, and authorized a 30-day review of agency operation. He told Fox that there will be "a top-down review of the IRS, and everything will be looked at."
That's not sufficient, said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on ABC's This Week. "I think a special counsel is going to wind up being necessary," he said.
As Obama tries to move past the scandal, his schedule this week includes a meeting with the president of Burma, a speech on counterterrorism and a commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Contributing: The Associated Press