Issa threatens ObamaCare subpoena

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) threatened Thursday to subpoena records about how the Internal Revenue Service has implemented ObamaCare.

Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has pressed the tax agency over its handling of the healthcare law's tax subsidies, which will help low-income families pay their premiums.

Issa said the Treasury Department has not provided substantive answers to his questions about the subsidies and threatened to "consider use of compulsory process" if the department doesn't provide more information by Aug. 29.

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Issa believes Treasury and the IRS are illegally implementing the law's insurance subsidies. The IRS plans to make subsidies available in all 50 states, but some Republicans say the tax credits should only be available in the 16 states that are operating their own insurance exchanges.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday, Issa said the documents Treasury has provided did not fully explain its decision to provide subsidies in every state. In-person briefings also weren't helpful, Issa said.

"These briefings have consisted of IRS and Treasury employees' inability to remember key factors they considered, a lack of familiarity among IRS and Treasury employees with how particular parts of the statute related to the rule, and a failure of IRS and Treasury employees to provide supporting evidence to this potentially illegal decision," Issa wrote.

Treasury has said certain documents, namely emails written before the IRS issued its first proposed rule on the subsidies, are protected by executive branch confidentiality. According to Issa's letter, Treasury has said it's only withholding about 50 emails from Issa under that rationale.

Issa said he believes there are more records pertinent to his requests, and dismissed Treasury's claims to confidentiality. He requested copies of all documents related to the IRS's interpretation of the healthcare law.

The text of the Affordable Care Act refers to subsidies flowing through exchanges "established by the state." Issa and other critics say that limits the subsidies to state-based exchanges, and not the federally run marketplaces.

Treasury and the IRS say Congress clearly intended for federally run exchanges to take the place of state-based marketplaces in the states that chose not to set up their own. Lawmakers and the Congressional Budget Office generally assumed during the legislative debate that subsidies would be available in all 50 states.