House Approves Bill To Block IRS From Implementing, Enforcing ACA
On Friday, the House voted 232-185 to approve a bill (HR 2009) that would block the Internal Revenue Service from implementing or enforcing any provisions of the Affordable Care Act, marking the 40th time the chamber's GOP majority has tried to repeal all or part of the law, the Wall Street Journal reports (Boles, Wall Street Journal, 8/2).
The vote on the bill -- sponsored by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) -- also marked the House GOP's final strike against the ACA before Congress adjourned for its August recess. The bill would prohibit the Treasury secretary or any delegate of the secretary from implementing any part of the ACA.
While the House was expected to pass the bill, it has "virtually no chance of approval" in the Democrat-controlled Senate (Pear, New York Times, 8/2). Last week, the White House issued a Statement of Administrative Policy noting that the administration "strongly opposes" HR 2009 and warning that President Obama will veto the bill if it reached his desk (California Healthline, 8/1).
On Friday, four Democrats -- Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.) -- crossed party lines to join all Republicans in supporting the measure (Kasperowicz , "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 8/2).
Republicans said the bill was introduced in response to recent scandals involving the IRS. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said, "The IRS has been abusing its power by targeting and punishing American citizens for their political beliefs," adding, "The last thing we should do is to allow the IRS to play such a central role in our health care."
According to Cantor, the ACA would give the IRS "access to the American people's protected health care information" (New York Times, 8/2). Price echoed those sentiments saying, "The American people have lost their faith and trust in the IRS," adding, "The IRS should not have the authority to implement or enforce" the ACA (Wall Street Journal, 8/2).
However, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) refuted those claims. "Neither the IRS nor [HHS] will have access to medical records or personal history, no access whatsoever," Levin said. He added, "This bill is nothing more than a continuation of the Republicans' blind obsession with repealing [the ACA]" (New York Times, 8/2).
Similarly, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the vote a "fool's errand" that was a "waste of taxpayers' time and money" (Wall Street Journal, 8/2).
Cornyn Urges Senate To Block IRS Role in ACA
Meanwhile in the Senate, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) failed to ensure the approval by unanimous consent a similar Senate bill (S 983) after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) objected, The Hill's "Hill Tube" reports. According to "Hill Tube," Cornyn is urging Reid to reconsider the measure and schedule a normal vote.
In a statement, Cornyn said, "After the abuses and mismanagement that have come to light, it is clear we must prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans' health care." He added, "I cannot support giving the IRS any responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement the law" (Viebeck, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 8/2).
House Votes To Give Congress Authority Over ACA Rules
In related news, the House on Friday voted 227-185 to approve legislative language that would require Congress to approve all federal regulations relating to the implementation of the ACA, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports.
The language was introduced as an amendment -- by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) -- that was attached to a bill (HR 367) requiring congressional oversight of any federal rule with economic impact exceeding $100 million. The amendment passed with support from six Democrats. Two Republicans voted against the measure. Smith said his proposal was an effort to appease U.S. residents' concerns about the harmful effects of the ACA (Kasperowicz , "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 8/2).
GOP Lawmakers Continue To Probe ACA Outreach Campaigns
Meanwhile, a group of 39 GOP senators last week sent a letter to White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler to seek an explanation for why some unrelated federal agencies are spending money to help implement and promote the ACA, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports.
The senators cited reports that the agencies, including the Education and Labor departments are helping to promote the law. The lawmakers wrote that they want to know "specifically about what the agencies are doing, what funds the agencies are spending, and what authorities the agencies are using."
They also asked Ruemmler to provide information about the types of funds the agencies are using because Congress did not authorize the spending. They noted that the Obama administration has complained about the sequester cuts, but it is still able to find money to promote the law (Cox, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 8/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.