By Ken Berry
The IRS is tasked with enforcing certain onerous provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (the PPACA) – or Obamacare as it is often referred to – but the union representing IRS staffers is dead set against it. The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) is advising its members to protest passage of H.R. 1780, which would shift the rank and file at the IRS from their cushy position in the federal health care system into exchanges operated under Obamacare.
H.R. 1780 is sponsored by Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), the powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the main tax-writing committee in the House. Camp has been in the news recently due to his committee's investigation of alleged shenanigans at the IRS involving targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups, as well as his nationwide tour with Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to drum up interest in tax reform.
Apparently, the NTEU won't get any argument from IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement Daniel Werfel. At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on August 1, Werfel responded to a question about the NTEU requesting an exemption from the PPACA by admitting he would rather stick with the existing health care plan.
"I prefer to stay with the current policy that I'm pleased with rather than go through a change if I don't need to go through that change", said Werfel. He added that he expected that most IRS employees would go along with this statement. Werfel also commented that workers who are generally satisfied with their current coverage are "probably in a better position to stick with that coverage."
The cadre of Republicans in Congress who have railed against Obamacare since its enactment quickly jumped at the opening. As expected, the most vocal critics renewed their calls to repeal the law in its entirety. "Count the head of the IRS among the growing list of folks that includes Big Labor and the law's chief architect who are deeply skeptical of the president's signature achievement and don't want any part of it", said Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in a prepared statement. "No American – even the head of the IRS – should be subjected to Obamacare."
However, it should be noted that Werfel didn't specifically say he opposed Obamacare, as is being claimed in some quarters. He simply responded to questioning about the change to health care exchanges by saying he would prefer to remain with the plan that's currently meeting his needs.
Werfel, who stepped in when IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller resigned over the Tea Party scandal, is likely to be out of a job soon. On August 1, President Obama nominated John Koskinen, former nonexecutive chairman of Freddie Mac and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, to be the next IRS commissioner.