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Tea Party lawmakers use IRS fiasco to ding health care reform


Lawmakers joined with Tea Party leaders on Thursday to warn that revelations that the IRS had targeted conservative groups could portend further abuses of government power, specifically in the way in which President Barack Obama's health care reform law is implemented.

The Capitol Hill press conference, which featured frequent references to Obamacare, happened hours before House Republicans were to hold their 37th vote to repeal or replace part of the law.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party figurehead, argued that the IRS's efforts to single out conservative advocacy groups for additional scrutiny could lead to similar profiling in implementing health care reform.

"Could there potentially be political implications regarding health care, access to health care, denial of health care - will that happen based upon a person's political beliefs or their religiously held beliefs?" she asked, saying that asking such a question before the IRS scandal would not have been “reasonable," but that now it was.

"Will our most personal information be used to deny or delay access to health care? Or could it be possible that our sensitive information could be used to blackmail Americans or even potentially to embarrass Americans?" she continued.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a Tea Party darling with presidential ambitions (and himself a physician) added: "I'm quite worried that your medical records now will be evaluated by the IRS that seems to have the ability and seems to have the penchant to use political persuasion and political oppo to search out political opponents."

He also said that while acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller’s resignation was a "step in the right direction," more heads needed to roll.

"Someone needs to be held responsible, someone needs to be imprisoned," he said.

Jenny Beth Martin, of the group Tea Party Patriots, suggested the IRS had political motivations for targeting groups like hers, despite the recently-released inspector general’s report which concluded no agents were driven by politics.

"Government agents have used the IRS as a weapon to silence speech, harass innocent Americans and perhaps sway elections," she said.

But despite the strong words against the IRS and the Obama administration, Bachmann and others shied from calling for Obama’s impeachment, as Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., did over the administration’s handling of the attack on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi.

"We also don't want to jump to conclusions. We want to go where the facts lead us and we aren't interested in creating our own facts contrary to some of our federal agencies," Bachmann said, though she added many of her constituents in Minnesota ask her, "Why aren’t you impeaching the president? He has been making unconstitutional actions since he came into office."

"So I will tell you what I’m hearing from people back home," Bachmann said.