House Votes to Prevent IRS From Enforcing Obamacare
The House voted 232-185 to prevent the IRS from enforcing any aspect of Obamacare. Four Democrats joined every Republican in passing the measure.
The House voted Friday to prevent the IRS from enforcing any aspect of ObamaCare, a bill meant to exact revenge against an agency that Republicans say is incapable of neutral enforcement of the law.
Members approved the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act in a 232-185 vote. Four Democrats supported the bill along with every Republican.
The vote capped off several days of work in the House on bills aimed at reining in government regulation and government overreach.
House Democrats cast the votes as merely for show, given opposition from the White House and the Senate majority. The Obama administration threatened to veto the IRS enforcement bill and said it would undermine the 2010 healthcare law that is aimed at expanding healthcare coverage.
Some of these healthcare votes have created awkward moments for Democrats. Earlier this month, 22 Democrats voted with Republicans to delay the individual insurance mandate, and 35 voted to delay the employer mandate.
But Democrats mostly stuck together on Friday, as only four voted to pass the IRS bill: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), and Collin Peterson (Minn.).
Friday’s vote was the 40th time the House has tried to fully or partially repeal ObamaCare. But it was also a chance to slam the IRS, which Republicans say has shown itself unworthy of neutrally enforcing the controversial law.
"The IRS is already out of control, abusing its power to tax and audit the activities of honest, hardworking Americans," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said. "The IRS has betrayed the trust of the American people.
"Democrats want to give this agency more power and authority?" he asked. "They want this agency involved in Americans’ healthcare? No way."
Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said the bill is a continuation of the GOP's "blind obsession" with repealing the healthcare law. He also said Republicans are incorrectly arguing that the IRS will have access to people's medical records.
"This should be said categorically: Neither the IRS nor the Department of Health and Human Services will have access to medical records or other personal history, no access whatsoever," Levin said.
That last statement by Rep. Levin may be true in the abstract. But here's an explanation of how the exchanges are supposed to work:
In an ideal world, the exchange websites need to be able to talk to several federal agencies—IRS to verify an applicant's income and employment status, the Department of Homeland Security to determine her citizenship, and the state government to see if she qualifies for Medicaid, to name a few—all in real time, so a person could fill out a form and purchase insurance in one sitting.
Each of those departments has its own computer system and its own means of tracking information. Creating a "data hub" to share them has been a challenge, as a recent Government Accountability Office report highlighted. It is increasingly clear that the kind of Amazon.com, one-stop shopping that was once described – and that Obama himself referenced in a speech on Monday -- will not be available in most parts of the country.
That "data hub" will have your medical records, employment and income history, and all sorts of juicy tidbits that -- eventually -- could be accessed by any government agency involved in Obamacare insurance. As we've seen with the NSA surveillance programs, it is impossible to guarantee that your information won't be accessed by someone who has no business looking at it.
It should go without saying that the House vote was symbolic in nature, with no real world consequences whatsoever. Congress should be working on real IRS reforms that would prevent the kind of targeting experienced by conservatives in 2012.