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GOP eager to link IRS scandal to ‘Obamacare’ takedown efforts

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As her fellow House Republicans took another symbolic vote Friday to repeal President Obama’s health care law, Rep. Diane Black, Tennessee Republican, filed a bill that prohibits the Internal Revenue Service from targeting political groups with any data obtained by carrying out the overhaul.

Fellow Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia also introduced legislation that would simply ban the Treasury secretary from implementing “Obamacare.”

And an exasperated Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi on Friday asked the former acting chief of the IRS to explain why he transferred the person who led the division accused of overly scrutinizing conservative groups from 2010 to 2012 to a branch that is in charge of implementing the health care law.

“Because she’s a superb civil servant, sir,” Steven Miller, who resigned under duress last week, told the Ohio Republican at a hearing before the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Republican lawmakers are ready and willing to tie the American people’s shaken faith in the IRS to their efforts to take down the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a set of health care reforms that are considered to be Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

It is an emerging subplot in the political imbroglio over revelations that the revenue agency singled out groups with terms such as “tea party” and “patriot” in their names, and one that feeds into the GOP’s attempts to discredit “Obamacare” as a big-government intrusion on Americans’ lives.

The IRS is arguably the most important agency in charge of implementing key provisions of the law next year, along with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Starting in 2014, the IRS will impose a tax on Americans who can afford health insurance but choose not to acquire it, and penalize employers with more than 50 full-time workers that do not provide adequate coverage. It also will begin to dole out tax credits to eligible consumers who purchase health insurance on one of the law’s state-based insurance markets, or “exchanges.”

Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, noted that the IRS cannot use these duties to raid people’s medical records. Rather, it will review financial information to determine whether a person is eligible for the premium tax credits.

“It is not a fascist takeover that’s going on here of the health care system,” Mr. McDermott said Friday. “And let’s not forget that the IRS has one of the hardest and most hated jobs, and there are thousands and thousands of good, solid, hardworking Americans who work every day to run this system.”

His softer take on the matter was contrasted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who said last week it was “just stunning” that IRS officials decided to transfer Sarah Hall Ingram from the agency’s tax-exempt organizations branch to a division tied to the health care law.

Testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee raised questions about whether or not Ms. Ingram knew about the political targeting before she was sent to the health care division toward the end of 2010.

“No one has suggested that she did anything wrong yet,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told “Fox News Sunday.”

But as long as the IRS reels from scandal, the health care law’s fiercest critics are ready to pounce on questions about the agency’s impartiality.

“Could there potentially be political implications regarding health care, access to health care, denial of health care?” Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said Thursday at a news conference with tea party members. “Will that happen based upon a person’s political beliefs or their religiously held beliefs?”

 

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