By Jason Millman - 02/17/11 05:37 PM EST
Republicans pushing to cut off funding to implement the healthcare reform law are setting their sights on the Internal Revenue Service.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) launched the first major IRS-targeted attack this week, introducing an amendment to the GOP’s spending bill that would prevent the agency from paying employees to implement the reform law’s individual and employer mandates.
“The IRS needs to be stopped from moving forward on implementing this law,” McMorris Rodgers told The Hill.
The IRS budget request released this week gave the first glimpse of the amount of money the agency thinks it needs to enforce the employer and individual mandates, as well as other provisions. The tax agency asked for $118.8 million in fiscal 2012 to implement the entire reform law.
The IRS is asking for $62.5 million and 65 employees to develop the information technology infrastructure it says is necessary to enforce the individual mandate and the requirement that businesses employing at least 50 workers provide coverage or pay a fine.
“Both provisions involve new information reporting that will streamline IRS verification and compliance efforts,” the agency wrote in its budget justification. “The IRS must implement appropriate business rules for document matching, conduct penalty calculations and send notices to individuals and employers, and integrate [reform law] requirements into current collection, case management and fraud detection systems.”
The IRS is also seeking $24 million and 234 employees to build systems to implement a new reform law premium assistance tax credit that takes effect in 2014. The inspector general’s office wants $5.6 million and 29 employees to oversee new changes required by the healthcare overhaul.
Rolling out the reform law will be a massive undertaking for the IRS, representing the “largest set” of tax law changes in more than two decades, the agency said. And though most of the major changes don’t go into effect until 2014, some major provisions are already taking hold.
Some small businesses this year are eligible for tax credits for up to 35 percent of health insurance provided to employees, but a recent survey found just 43 percent of small businesses know they qualify for it.
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), who sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, supports the IRS defunding strategy as a way to allow Republicans to pursue healthcare alternatives as part of their “repeal and place” agenda.
"It'd be great if we could hold off enactment so ... we could put together a better set of ideas," he told The Hill.
The threat of government shutdown is looming over efforts to defund the law. The Republican-dominated House can essentially pass any legislation it wants, but the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama would certainly block legislation that prevents the healthcare reform law from moving forward.
A coalition of groups opposing the law last week urged Republicans to defund the law, stressing that they wouldn’t take the blame for the stalemate as they did for the 1995 government shutdown.
“Senate Democrats would be the ones shutting down the government,” according to a Defundit.org memo sent to House GOP members. “House Republicans can give them all the appropriations they need to run federal operations, besides that for ObamaCare.”
Republicans, however, have been trying to distance themselves from talk of a government shutdown as Democrats are eager to tie them to it.
“We’re going to do everything we can to work with the Senate to avoid that,” McMorris Rodgers said.