Policy/Biz

GOP Uses IRS Scandal To Cast Doubts On Obamacare

Outgoing acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George are sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington
The IRS scandal, centered around outgoing acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, gives Republicans new reason to oppose Obamacare. Reuters

These last couple of weeks have been tough on the Obama administration. First, the White House's admission on Monday that the Americans who died in an attack on an American facility in Benghazi, Libya "were not in a position where they were adequately protected." Then, the resignation of two key Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials after the discovery that the agency has been illegally targeting conservative groups.

While the Obama administration scrambles to clean up mess after mess, Republicans are hoping that the onslaught of bad press will offer another opportunity to attack the Affordable Care Act — this time, in relation to the IRS.

Republicans impressively voted for the 37th time to have Obamacare repealed this week, a vote that passed in the House and will likely be defeated in the Democrat-led Senate. The GOP has expressed consistently that it does not agree with the Obama Administration's health care reforms and will fight tirelessly to repeal them before the huge overhaul takes effect in January 2014.

The current director of the Affordable Care Act office in the IRS was previously the head of the department that is alleged to have targeted tea party groups. And, since many of the new health care laws are to be implemented and enforced by the IRS, Republicans are beginning to question whether the agency will be able to adequately carry out the new reforms.

"It's the IRS that will be responsible for enforcing many of these regulations" said Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD). "If we've learned anything this week, it's that the IRS needs less power, not more."

Democrats argue that the GOP is making a tremendous stretch in alleging that the agency won't be able to enforce health care reforms. "There really isn't a tie," said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.). "This is another effort by the Republicans to essentially try to score political points."

It is unusual for the IRS to be involved in a social program like the Affordable Care Act, but since there are financial subsidies available under the law, officials saw it as a logical next step to place the agency in charge of that portion of the law. The IRS will handle determining if individual Americans can pay private health premiums using tax credits, who is eligible for financial assistance, and who must pay penalties.

Republicans have yet to make any factual assertions concerning the connection between this week's scandals and the ability of the IRS to do its small part in regulating health care reforms. For now, any link between the two could be seen as merely coincidental. However, in the days and weeks to come there will surely be more to discuss on this topic, as Republicans have made it clear that they want Obamacare repealed.

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