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GOP ties scandal to health care law administrator

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By The Associated Press
Saturday, May 18, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Political scandals have ways of causing collateral damage, and Republicans are hoping the furor over federal tax enforcers singling out conservative groups will ensnare their biggest target: the president's health care law.

There is a link, but it may be coincidence.

The Internal Revenue Service has a major role in carrying out the health care law, because financial assistance to help the uninsured afford coverage will be funneled through the tax system. At the same time, the IRS is responsible for penalties on individuals and employers who fail to comply with the law's requirements.

A former head of the office that subjected Tea Party groups seeking tax exemptions to tougher scrutiny is now running the tax agency's division in charge of implementing the health care law.

That official apparently switched roles before internal alarm bells went off about the problem. But in the weekly GOP radio address on Saturday, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., tried to make the connection.

“If we've learned anything this week, it's that the IRS needs less power, not more,” Harris said. “As matter of fact, it turns out that the IRS official who oversaw the operation that's under scrutiny for targeting conservatives is now in charge of the IRS's Obamacare office. You can't make this stuff up.”

Earlier in the week, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., cited the IRS role in administering the law, saying: “The average American will pay more; they'll get less.”

Nonsense, says Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., ranking Democrat on Ways and Means, which oversees the IRS.

“There really isn't a tie,” said Levin. “This is another effort by the Republicans to essentially try to score political points.”

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