CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS – HEALTH
Nov. 1, 2012 – 6:21 p.m.
Issa Puts Health Care Law in His Sights
By Alan K. Ota, CQ Staff
House Republicans are opening a new front in their drive to derail the 2010 health care overhaul: using an expedited legislative procedure to upend targeted parts of the law.
Republican leaders are preparing to use the effort during the post-election session that begins Nov. 13, but whether they actually have the House vote on a resolution of disapproval to sideline an IRS rule related to the health law hinges on who wins next week’s presidential election.
The resolution is backed by
Using resolutions of disapproval to dismantle implementation of the health law represents a far more targeted approach than House Republicans have taken since they moved into the majority in 2011. Before now, the House has held 31 votes on bills to repeal all or part of the health care overhaul.
House leaders plan to bring the resolution to a vote during the lame-duck session if Obama wins re-election, but will lay the groundwork for using the budget reconciliation process to strike parts of the law instead if former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wins, Republican aides said.
The resolution aimed at the IRS rule is the first in a series of Republican initiatives intended to block parts of the heath care law if Obama is given a second term, said a senior Senate Republican aide.
“If Obama wins, you will see more of them. If Romney wins, you will see fewer,” said a Senate Republican aide, who added that even if such resolutions ultimately fail they could require Democrats to cast votes that may pose re-election problems in 2014.
Disapproval resolutions such as this one (
Republicans used the same tactic this fall to try to kill the Obama administration’s recent move to allow waivers to work requirements specified under the 1996 welfare overhaul law, but the Senate put off action on that effort until after the election. Even if Congress voted to block either the health law’s tax or the welfare rule, it is unlikely to be overturned while Obama is in office.
The disapproval process is dictated by the 1996 Congressional Review Act (PL 104-121), a law that has been used successfully only once when President Bush signed a resolution overturning an Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace ergonomic rule in 2001.
Issa and other critics argue the health law does not explicitly provide authority for the IRS to enforce the law’s tax provisions. Under an IRS rule finalized in May, subsidies for helping eligible individuals buy health insurance would be available in state and federal exchanges beginning in 2014.
Opponents such as Issa and DesJarlais contend the health overhaul authorizes subsidies only in state-run exchanges, not those to be set up by the federal government in the states that choose not to establish their own or that would not meet the law’s requirements.
As a result, critics say, the rule directly conflicts with the statute and allows the IRS to provide subsidies through tax credits without authorization from Congress. They also say employers in the states that have resisted setting up exchanges would have to pay the penalty for failing to offer insurance to their workers because it’s tied to eligibility for subsidies in an exchange.
Issa Puts Health Care Law in His Sights
But, in an explanation accompanying the final regulations, the IRS said the rule is consistent with the law and its legislative history does not show that Congress meant to restrict subsidies to state exchanges only.
DesJarlais, a physician who sits on Issa’s panel, has been working with Issa on the disapproval resolution.
Use of the resolution represents an effort by Issa, who has held several highly partisan investigations into administration actions, to reposition his panel to be at the center of opposition to the health care overhaul.
Issa added health care to the jurisdiction one of his subcommittees, but the full committee focused most of its investigations elsewhere.
Issa’s handling of the health care issue in coming months could provide a fresh opening for him to improve his oversight record, according to GOP aides and longtime political observers.
“The question is what does
Issa has led probes into security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi after an assault on the facility left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and into the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation. The investigations generated headlines but resulted in no high-level ousters or criminal prosecutions and Issa’s main legislative initiative, a Postal Service overhaul (
Thomas M. Davis III, the former chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte & Touche, says Issa is likely to make more headway raising questions about the health care law’s IRS rule and probing waste and fraud in the Medicaid program than he has on other topics.
“Win or lose, health care will be a hot issue. And I think the committee will play a key role,” Davis said.
“O and I is a good place to do this. The scope of the committee is oversight,” said Roe, who also predicted the House will take up the disapproval resolution if Obama wins re-election but not if Romney wins.
Melissa Attias contributed to this story.