Just days after the IRS admitted making life miserable for conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., warned that the agency cannot be trusted to enforce Obamacare and is pushing legislation to strip the IRS of any new powers connected to the law.
On Thursday, ABC News reported the IRS official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations when the agency targeted tea-party groups is now in charge of the IRS office responsible for enforcing Obamacare. Also, the Daily Caller reported the agency is the subject of a class action lawsuit alleging that "15 of its agents improperly seized 10 million Americans' medical records."
However, the "Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013" would bar the IRS from "implementing or enforcing" any components of the health care laws.
"We always opposed utilizing the IRS in this fashion. They have no expertise in that area, and we just think that it's inappropriate to have the IRS involved in people's health care," said Price, a physician and member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee that will hold hearings on IRS abuses Friday.
"When it became clear that the IRS has been abusing it's privilege of gaining information from folks and treating certain Americans differently than other Americans, then that was just an unconscionable bridge too far, and we said, 'Well, we've got to do something about this," Price told WND. "This bill, H.R. 2009, simply says that the IRS may not be involved in any aspect of the president's health care law."
Updated reports on the depth of the IRS scandal suggest the politically motivated activities were far more widespread than the IRS admits. Price said the rampant bullying of Americans based on political beliefs proves the agency should be nowhere near the U.S. health care system.
"It was not just targeting groups that were applying for a tax-exempt status but that they were asking for information about who were the donors to those entities and then going after the donors themselves. This is much broader than picking on an organization or two," Price said. "If you let your mind draw a parallel to health care, then it's wholly possible that the IRS could then determine whether or not the health care you were purchasing or where you were going was the kind of health care they wanted you to have or they wouldn't allow you to have or didn't comply with their dictates or their mandates in something so very, very personal as health care.
"As a physician, I can tell you that is absolutely irresponsible and unconscionable, and we're going to do all that we can to make certain that the IRS doesn't get that power," Price said.
Not surprisingly, many House Republicans are enthusiastically backing Price's bill and the congressman said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, intends to introduce the bill on the Senate side. Democrats are not lining up behind the legislation yet, but Price believes some of them might.
"Many of them are also disgusted by what the IRS has done, and I think the next step for them is to answer, 'Well, in that case, don't you believe that the IRS ought to be strictly confined to its original mission and do so in a transparent way as opposed to expanding its mission to get into people's health care?'" Price said.
The congressman does not believe that the IRS will suddenly play by the rules just because it was caught in the current scandal. He said a "trust but verify" approach would be needed to determine whether the IRS really cleaned up its act, and there's not enough time for it to prove real reforms have taken place before Obamacare is implemented
Price does not believe the explanation that this targeting of conservative groups and individuals was the work of a few rogue, low-level staffers.
"This had to come from somewhere up the chain," he said. "Was it the individual in charge of the tax-exempt division? Was it the secretary of the treasury? Or does it go further than that? That's what we need to answer with our oversight."
Price does not buy President Obama's carefully worded denials about what his staff knew about this scandal.
"Call me skeptical, but I believe the White House was involved in this activity," he said.