Knoxville — The 2010 health care reform law, referred to as the Affordable Health Care Act, grants the Internal Revenue Service more powers and control over Americans' health care. The recent scandal, in which it was discovered that conservative organizations' applications for nonprofit status were delayed by the IRS, has caused concern about the IRS's expanded powers among Republicans and Democrats.
"It comes up a lot," Sen. Chuck Grassley told the Journal-Express this afternoon. He hears it more from his fellow Republicans, but there are Democrats who are concerned about this authority.
Grassley said the IRS is already intimidating. He was involved in efforts years ago to restructure the IRS, as at that time, the bureau was making things difficult for small business owners.
These changes allowed IRS officials to be fired without a hearing. Problems still exist, and Grassley believes, they will continue to, as long as the current tax code is in place. He believes if a flat tax was implemented, there would be less power granted to the IRS.
Iowa's Congressional Delegation tried to fight the Department of Veterans Affairs decision to remove inpatient services from the Knoxville campus. They were unsuccessful. The IRS is a similar, large agency, and Grassley was asked how much of an impact a single legislator could have in making changes to the IRS.
Grassley responded by saying that, as the country's lawmakers, they can change the laws at any time to affect the actions of a federal agency.
Grassley is also concerned about the IRS's demands to know the contents of an Iowa organization's prayers and making such political requests as asking right to life organizations to not protest in front of Planned Parenthood.
"You can't have the IRS tell you when you can speak and not speak," Grassley said. This goes against freedom of speech and religion, he added.
The First Amendment appears to have been further violated by the Justice Department, which secretly seized communication records of reporters with the Associated Press and Fox News. With this scandal, as well as past scandals involving the Justice Department, including the Fast and Furious gun-running program and the Department's refusal to prosecute the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation in Pennsylvania, Grassley was asked if he considered demanding the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Grassley said he is cautious about making such demands, but says he will "hold their feet to the fire" to see to it the matters are investigated and the truth exposed. He expressed his disappointment with the department's political influence on judicial matters.
"Leave the politics out of it and make the case," Grassley said.
Grassley was about to vote on an amendment to the "Farm Bill," proposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein of California. It was in regard to crop insurance for tobacco farmers, and he intended to vote against it. Most amendments proposed to the Farm Bill have been defeated, and he believes the final product will be similar to what Congress approved in committee. Though the bill is commonly known as the "Farm Bill," the bulk of spending involved is used for nutrition programs, with 20 percent used to support farmers.
Grassley also discussed the immigration reform bill. He has previously told the Journal-Express that he is not in favor of amnesty, as he supported that in 1986 and apparently did not work.
"I'm never going to know until I see what the final version looks like," Grassley said of the immigration bill. He does not believe the bill has changed enough for his support. Three weeks of debate on the bill is expected, following the Memorial Day holiday.