HELENA – U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, on a weeklong tour of the state, highlighted concerns over the 2014 implementation of the federal health care law and told a tea party group that investigations into Internal Revenue Service targeting will lead to answers.
Daines is considered a top candidate to replace Montana’s retiring Sen. Max Baucus next year — although he has only said he is focused on his current job and would not consider such a move until later.
At a stop Wednesday evening, the first-term Republican told leaders of the Big Sky Tea Party of Helena that there will be more hearings next week into the IRS disclosure that agents had been singling out groups with “tea party” and “patriots” in their applications for tax-exempt status.
“I think the facts and truth will speak for themselves. I am not going to make any assumption on the outcome of this,” Daines said at the small meeting. “I think the White House has been pretty cagey about what they are saying about what they knew, and when.”
The Obama administration has said no senior officials were involved in any targeting. Top Treasury Department officials will be speaking with one of two House committees holding hearings when Congress returns from recess.
A report by a Treasury Department inspector general found IRS workers screened for the words in deciding which groups should be closely examined to determine if they were participating primarily in political campaigns, a requirement for tax-exempt status.
The Big Sky Tea Party of Helena told Daines it had no indication it was targeted. But group members told Daines the blatant targeting of conservative groups is another example of how the Obama administration has overstepped its authority on many issues, including the federal health care law being implemented next year.
Daines, who met earlier in the week with Missoula business owners who are worried about the difficulty and expense of navigating the new rules, said Republicans in Congress were still working on a solution. The administration has largely ignored efforts by House Republicans to repeal the measure.
Daines said some companies expect double-digit increases in insurance premiums while others are restraining growth to avoid going over a 50-employee threshold that triggers a requirement they provide certain coverage for employees.
In addition, uninsured people are worried about the cost of complying with the mandate they buy insurance, he said.
“I think the uncertainty right now about what Obamacare means is one of the looming questions for a lot of people,” Daines said.
Supporters of the federal law point to popular provisions, such as a ban on insurance companies turning people away for pre-existing conditions and add that there will be up-front tax credits to help people buy private health insurance.
Democrats also criticize House Republicans for failing to produce a workable alternative, and for advancing a cost-cutting budget they argue would have ruined the popular Medicare plan.
“The question is: Is it fixable, is this a matter of trying to put some fine tuning to this?” Daines said during an interview. “My position has been that I think we repeal this and start over.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.