House Republicans have pushed through legislation that prohibits the Internal Revenue Service from carrying out any provision of Obamacare.
The bill, passed Friday, reports The New York Times
, has little chance of approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate. If by some chance it would get through the Senate, President Barack Obama has said he'll veto the measure if it reaches his desk.
The bill, passed just before the House left for its August recess, was approved by a vote of 232 to 183, and one of more than three dozen other attempts the House has voted on to repeal or roll back Obamacare. All the House Republicans voted for the measure, along with four Democrats, Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota.
The IRS is to play a key role in implementing Obamacare, providing tax credits that will allow people with lower incomes to afford insurance. It will also impose penalties on people who refuse coverage and in employers with more than 50 full-time employees who fail to offer them coverage.
But Republicans are pointing to the numerous scandals the IRS has been through in recent months -- particularly, targeting conservative agencies -- and saying the powerful federal agency can no longer be trusted.
“The IRS has been abusing its power by targeting and punishing American citizens for their political beliefs,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. "This kind of government abuse must stop. The last thing we should do is to allow the I.R.S. to play such a central role in our health care."
Cantor said Republicans are also concerned the IRS won't protect health care information, because "this same agency has illegally disclosed protected taxpayer information."
Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, however, denied that the IRS of the Department of Health and Human Services will have access to medical records or personal history.
"This bill is nothing more than a continuation of the Republicans’ blind obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act," said Levin. "Their mission is to destroy, not implement, healthcare reform."
Danny Werfel, acting head of the IRS, told legislators Thursday
that precautions are being taken to make sure that personal tax information is protected under the healthcare law.
"There are all kinds of safeguards and procedures that we put in place when we share taxpayer information outside of the IRS," he told committee members.
Also on Friday, Obama said the federal government will continue paying a large share of health insurance premiums for Congress members and their aides, clearing up doubts about whether Obamacare would eliminate the coverage.
Obama has said that he will get his own health insurance through an exchange, and on Friday, he said he will support putting cabinet members and the White House staff through exchanges as well.
Some aides had already started looking for other jobs because of fears of losing government-backed premiums.
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