The Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups raises serious questions about how it plans to handle the taxes and penalties associated with Obamacare, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says, and he thinks the president owes apologies for the agency's conduct.
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"[President Barack Obama] has a huge problem, because Obamacare relies very heavily on the IRS," Gingrich said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Why would you trust the bureaucracy with your health if you can't trust the bureaucracy with your politics?" he added a moment later.
Gingrich raised the issue because the IRS will be responsible for administering the mandate on health insurance by tracking taxes and fees associated with the law and levying penalties on Americans who don't purchase coverage.
Last week, the IRS admitted some mid-level agents targeted conservative groups for additional scrutiny, especially ones with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their names. The agency has issued an apology, claiming the decisions were not official policy.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal
and The Washington Post reported that the key-word searches went even further, targeting conservative groups with "constitution" or "deficit reduction" in their profiles. On Monday, a prominent pro-Israel group
suggested that it had been targeted.
"The effort now, of course, is to say it was low-level employees. Yet those low-level employees apparently saw public reports that they weren’t doing what they were doing, and nobody informed anyone at the IRS, let alone the Treasury," Gingrich said.
Gingrich joined with other conservative voices
in demanding those responsible be fired.
"I think the president needs to say he's going to open it up totally; he's going to demand everybody meet with Congress, go to the hearings; he's going to fire everybody he can legally fire who's been involved in this, and they've got to look at changes," he said.
The former speaker, who ran for president last year, insisted it would be "almost madness" to put the responsibility for enforcing the requirements of Obamacare under the IRS, given the circumstances now.
“How can you put Obamacare under an Internal Revenue Service? Remember, this is an administration which will not profile terrorists, but [will] profile patriots, profile constitutional groups,” he said.
Republicans, including Gingrich, want a full-blown investigation and an apology from Obama.
"He also owes every tea party [group] in America, every group called 'patriot,' every group that wants to study the constitution, an apology," Gingrich said, adding: "There's something culturally sick if the American government says, 'Boy, you put that word constitution in your name, we're going to come after you.'"
Gingrich said that one of the most disturbing aspects of the IRS scandal is that agency heads apparently knew about the targeting of conservative groups in 2011 and lied about it during testimony to Congress in March 2012.
"There are bureaucrats in the IRS who are capable of ruining your life while lying about it, and that's what we're up against," he stressed.
"Again this is an administration that is shocked at profiling against terrorism, but apparently had an entire part of the IRS that was profiling for patriotism," he said, essentially placing the blame for the scandal in Obama's lap. "I find that to be very, very chilling in terms of our political liberty."
Gingrich also sought to compare the IRS scandal with developments in recent days concerning changes that were made in administration talking points about the terrorist attack in September 2012 on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"The parallel between Benghazi and the IRS story is amazing," he said. "Lying, then lying about lying, and then hiding from the fact that they're lying. Then seeking to apologize for the lies they claim they didn't tell."
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"I mean, this pattern is a culture of big government that thinks it's more important than the people," Gingrich added.
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