WASHINGTON -- The tea party is using the Internal Revenue Service scandal as a springboard to renew calls to limit or even abolish an agency it’s always disliked.
Thousands of tea party supporters rallied Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, cheering on proposals to take the enforcement of Obamacare out of the IRS, suspend the IRS’s power to perform audits, and abolish the agency altogether along with the income tax it enforces in favor of what is called a Fair Tax.
“The very best solution is we need to abolish the IRS,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The concept of the Fair Tax has been a favorite of the tea party since the movement’s inception in 2009. It would throw out income, payroll, estate and gift taxes in favor of a national consumption tax on retail sales, which would resemble the state sales taxes now. Since retailers would collect the tax directly along with purchases, it theoretically would eliminate the need for the IRS.
Opponents of the tax have said it could have drastic effects on the economy, since the tax rate would be 20 to 30 percent. Consumers might feel a disincentive to buy products after seeing the increase in cost.
Another idea that spurred cheers Wednesday involved suspending the auditing power of the IRS for six months. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said at the rally that that would give Congress time to question the IRS and hold accountable those who’d abused their power by targeting conservatives for special scrutiny.
“Congress must continue to hold hearings to get to the bottom of the IRS misconduct, but we must also disarm the agency by suspending its power to launch new audits,” Fleming said in a statement. “The time has come to turn the IRS upside down, shake out all the corruption and wrongdoing, and transform how we do federal taxes.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., urged holding IRS agents accountable – and then some.
“Anyone want to fire some IRS agents?” Paul asked, to shouts of approval. “Why don’t we start with the 1,600 IRS agents who are going to implement Obamacare?”
That was another repeated theme at the rally. The tea party itself rose up in part out of anger at the 2010 Affordable Care Act, now nicknamed Obamacare. Amid the calls to repeal the law altogether was the idea that an agency that was violating constitutional protections shouldn’t be in charge of implementing a health care overhaul.
“We’ve seen the Obama administration willing to abuse the IRS to target citizens. We’ve seen them willing to cover up about Benghazi,” Cruz said. “Do we trust the IRS with Obamacare and our health care?”
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would require the inspector general of tax administration to audit the IRS. The bill also would delay full implementation of Obamacare until the audit was complete and a public report released.