WASHINGTON • On the day the U.S. House votes for the 37th time to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, Tea Party activists argued that the enforcement role of the IRS offers yet another reason for rejecting the three year-old health care law.
“I’m quite worried that your medical records now will be evaluated by the IRS,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ken., chairman of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.
Paul spoke today at a gathering of Tea Party leaders from across the country and their allies in Congress.
IRS employees who delayed conservative groups' request for tax-exempt status may or may not have envisioned partisan dividends for liberals. But given the outcry, the abuses appear to be delivering a bounty to conservatives.
Besides embroiling the Obama administration in scandal, the IRS admission has energized tea party groups and handed Republicans an organizing tool for the 2014 elections.
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After losing winnable Senate races in 2012, some Republicans were distancing themselves Tea Party enthusiasts and encouraging them to stand aside in as the GOP prepares for the mid-term races.
On the Capitol lawn today, Republicans in Congress stood arm-in-arm with Tea Party leaders from across the country. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., decried the IRS disclosure as "runaway government at its worst."
Tea Party leaders described the runaround from the IRS in seeking tax-exempt status. Several said they were prevented from growing while waiting for the designation and now expect a resurgence of activity in the wake of the IRS admissions.
Ed Martin, Missouri GOP chairman, said by phone that Republicans and Tea Party enthusiasts need to capitalize on the opportunity.
"There's no doubt that what happened with the IRS has sent a wave of energy and recognition through these groups and through the (Republican) party, too. The question is, how does that energy get galvanized? How does it get a focus?" asked Martin, an early leader in the Tea Party movement.
With the GOP in transition after recent defeats, Martin said, "it's not really clear who, or what, catches the energy."
As party chairman, Martin defined his goal: devising a coherent argument that appeals to the Tea Party, social conservatives and establishment Republicans alike.
"What is the Republican answer to IRS corruption? The answer is less government intrusion and less growth in the bureaucracy," he said.