WASHINGTON - For the 40th time, Republicans pushed legislation through the House on Friday targeting President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, this one a bill preventing the Internal Revenue Service from implementing any part of the health care law.
The measure, symbolic because of the certainty that it will be ignored by the Democratic-led Senate, was approved by a near party-line 232-185 vote.
The legislation married two of the GOP's favorite targets: the 2010 health care law and the IRS, which in May conceded it had improperly targeted conservative groups seeking tax exempt status for detailed investigations.
Next year, the IRS will begin enforcing the requirement that most individuals have health insurance, collecting fines from people who don't. The agency also will distribute subsidies to help people buy insurance in new exchanges.
Repealing those provisions would enfeeble the heart of the measure, which was aimed in part at making health care more affordable for lower-income people. Analysts say healthy people must purchase health care to help cover the costs of those who are ill, and the fines are designed to prod those who are fit to buy policies.
Sponsor Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., named his bill the "Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act."
"We simply want patients and families and doctors to be in charge of health care, not Washington, D.C., and not the IRS," Price said.
Democrats argued that Friday's vote, the last before the House was joining the Senate in a five-week recess, was a waste of time that ignored the country's larger economic and budget problems and was aimed instead at letting Republicans score political points with conservatives.
"Political red meat is not what this country needs," said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. "We need a Congress with a vision for tomorrow."
With the IRS under congressional and Justice Department investigations for its mishandling of groups' applications for tax-exempt status, Republicans warned that the agency should not get involved in Americans' health care.
"This is nothing short of an unwelcome, big-government overreach into the most personal aspect of our lives," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Democrats said that the IRS would only have peoples' names, addresses, family size, incomes and insurance information.
"Assertions that the IRS will have access to personal health information is wrong and deliberately misleading," said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.
Friday's vote marked the 40th time the GOP-controlled House will have voted to repeal all or part of the law.
Most of the measures have died in the Democratic-controlled Senate. A handful have been enacted, including one that reduced small business record-keeping the law had required.