House passes new bill aimed at undermining Obama healthcare package

House Speaker John Boehner during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – Republicans in the House of Representatives passed another symbolic rebuke of President Obama’s healthcare law, ahead of a possible showdown over funding for the measure that threatens to shut down the government this fall.

Friday’s vote on what was called the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act” was the House’s final vote before breaking for a five-week summer recess. The measure, which would strip the Internal Revenue Service of its power to enforce its individual mandate, passed mostly along party lines, 232-185, with just four Democrats breaking to support it. It is not expected to be taken up in the Senate.

The bill’s sponsors cited the recent scandal over inappropriate political targeting by the tax agency to justify the action, warning it was an indication of possible future abuses.

The IRS “cannot be trusted now,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), its lead sponsor. “The overwhelming percent of the American people understand and appreciate that the IRS should not be involved in the healthcare of the nation.”

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“Aren’t you embarrassed to go a 40th time in a fruitless, hopeless act?” countered Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a supporter of universal healthcare in his record-long tenure in Congress. He said Republicans should be called “the Repealicans, or maybe the Repealicants,” for focusing so much of their time trying to undermine the law.

The House also voted in July to delay the requirement that individuals have a form of basic healthcare coverage by one year. In May it voted on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.

But a block of conservative Republicans are seeking to gain support for what they see as a more effective way to prevent implementation of the law after Congress returns from recess a week after Labor Day.

Then, lawmakers will have just three weeks to find agreement with the White House on a measure to fund government when the current resolution expires Sept. 30. The conservatives want leadership to insist that any funding bill not include any dollars that could be used for what has become known as “Obamacare.”

Neither House Speaker John A. Boehner nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has signed on to the approach, and they will have to balance pressure from their base with the possible political ramifications of being blamed for a government shutdown if it were to occur.

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