In gesture, House bans IRS role in health care

SATURDAY, AUG. 3, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference on Thursday. (Associated Press)
House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference on Thursday. (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – The Republican-run House of Representatives voted 232-185 Friday to bar the besieged Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing the new health care law, but the effort was largely a political exercise.

The vote on the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013” broke largely along party lines, with 228 Republicans and four Democrats in favor and 185 Democrats opposed.

Most likely, the bill will go nowhere. Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and they’re not about to kill or dilute the 2010 law that President Barack Obama championed so forcefully.

Still, a vote that combined two of the party’s favorite targets – the IRS and health care – proved unusually inviting. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio summed up the Republican complaint: “The IRS has shown it cannot be trusted to implement the president’s train wreck of a health care law.”

The IRS has a vital role in implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly known as Obamacare. The agency can act on 47 of the law’s provisions, including many of the more controversial ones. The law requires nearly everyone to obtain coverage next year or face a penalty.

The IRS has been under fire for months because it targeted for particular scrutiny some conservative groups seeking tax exemptions. Republicans have fought to dismantle the health care law. Friday’s House vote was the 40th attempt at repealing it.

During the fiery House debate Friday, Democrats offered their own summer talking point: Republicans are obsessed with the IRS and repealing the health care law, and they’ve done little to address more pressing issues such as a 2014 federal budget or an immigration overhaul.

But for Republicans, the IRS and the health care law symbolize what scares them most about Washington: big, expensive, out-of-control government.

“This is nothing short of an unwelcome big-government overreach into the most personal aspect of our lives,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.


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