The House voted Friday to prevent the IRS from enforcing any aspect of ObamaCare, a bill meant to exact revenge against an agency that Republicans say is incapable of neutral enforcement of the law.
Members approved the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act in a 232-185 vote. Four Democrats supported the bill along with every Republican.
The vote capped off several days of work in the House on bills aimed at reining in government regulation and government overreach.
House Democrats cast the votes as merely for show, given opposition from the White House and the Senate majority. The Obama administration threatened to veto the IRS enforcement bill and said it would undermine the 2010 healthcare law that is aimed at expanding healthcare coverage.
Some of these healthcare votes have created awkward moments for Democrats. Earlier this month, 22 Democrats voted with Republicans to delay the individual insurance mandate, and 35 voted to delay the employer mandate.
But Democrats mostly stuck together on Friday, as only four voted to pass the IRS bill: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), and Collin Peterson (Minn.).
Friday’s vote was the 40th time the House has tried to fully or partially repeal ObamaCare. But it was also a chance to slam the IRS, which Republicans say has shown itself unworthy of neutrally enforcing the controversial law.
“The IRS is already out of control, abusing its power to tax and audit the activities of honest, hardworking Americans,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said. “The IRS has betrayed the trust of the American people.
“Democrats want to give this agency more power and authority?” he asked. “They want this agency involved in Americans’ healthcare? No way.”
Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said the bill is a continuation of the GOP’s “blind obsession” with repealing the healthcare law. He also said Republicans are incorrectly arguing that the IRS will have access to people’s medical records.
“This should be said categorically: Neither the IRS nor the Department of Health and Human Services will have access to medical records or other personal history, no access whatsoever,” Levin said.
A few Democrats said gutting enforcement of the bill would remove health coverage that thousands of people now have under the law. Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said the law would help families without coverage whose children are diagnosed with cancer.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) angrily rejected those statements as “scare tactics” that he said “do not have a place in legitimate debate on this floor.”
“Scare tactics to say that somehow Republicans … don’t care about people’s healthcare is just not true,” he said.
“We don’t believe in omnibus Washington-engineered healthcare,” he added. “That’s what’s going on here — Washington bureaucrats deciding what kind of healthcare you can have.”
Consideration of the bill reopened the battles that were waged three years ago when the bill was first passed under a Democratic majority. Now-Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) criticized the GOP for only focusing on repealing the law and for failing to engage in efforts to fix it.
“There’s no fix — no fix on the [GOP] website, no fix on this floor,” Hoyer said.
To that, freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) shot back that Democrats didn’t seek GOP input back in 2010 when the law was written.
“It is interesting that the minority whip would like Republicans to help in fixing this bill, considering that they weren’t interested at all in Republican input when they passed it in the middle of the night, with a pure party-line vote,” he said.
Most Democrats said the House was wasting more time by passing a bill that was sure to go nowhere in the Senate. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who was recently honored as the longest-serving member of the House in U.S. history, offered his own historical take on the GOP bill.
“Aren’t you embarrassed to go a 40th time in a fruitless, hopeless act?” he asked. “The Republican Party is like the Bourbons of France: They forget nothing because they never learned anything.”