Issa Challenges Treasury Department Over Obamacare Politics
March 21, 2014 by Ben Bullard
Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is calling on the Treasury Department to explain its Constitutional role in delaying Obamacare’s employer mandate. Issa alleges the Treasury Department is caught up in President Barack Obama’s political strategy to put off as many harmful Obamacare provisions as possible until after the 2014 Congressional midterm elections.
Issa and other Republican Congressmen wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Thursday, asking the Treasury Department to provide all of its correspondence with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services over the employer delay, which the Obama Administration pushed forward in February.
The Treasury Department’s final rule included Obama’s proposed delay for companies that employ 50 to 99 employees, even though Congress has never amended the Affordable Care Act to accommodate a change to its standing stipulation that businesses must choose between offering healthcare coverage or paying a fine.
The only reason, said Issa, is that the White House is attempting to slow the rollout of the most damaging portions of Obamacare by instructing HHS and the Treasury Department to change the law through behind-the-scenes policy tweaks.
“Information obtained by the Committee suggests that last year’s decision to delay the employer mandate was made by the White House and not the Treasury Department,” Issa wrote. “We were surprised to learn that the White House Chief of Staff knew about the employer mandate delay prior to the head of the department implementing the program. This finding raises serious questions about whether the White House directed the delay of the employer mandate for political reasons.”
According to The Hill, which reported on the Oversight Committee’s challenge Thursday, one Treasury staffer admitted to the Committee that “he couldn’t recall” any conversations about whether the Treasury Department can legally implement changes to the law:
Issa cited testimony from Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur, who in an interview with Oversight said repeatedly he couldn’t recall if anyone at Treasury discussed whether the agency had the legal authority to delay the mandate.
“These admissions are stunning: there are more than two thousand attorneys in the Department of Treasury, and the official responsible for tax policy cannot recall a single one inquiring into the legal authority for the employer mandate delay,” the letter says. “Furthermore, Mr. Mazur’s responses are inconsistent with the Department’s claim that it relied upon an asserted authority under § 7805 of the Internal Revenue Code.
“While we believe that Obamacare, including its penalties on employers, is bad policy and should be repealed, it is clear that by law the Administration cannot act unilaterally to delay unpopular aspects of Obamacare until after the next November election.”