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U.S. Rep. John Barrow, a Democrat from the Augusta area, keeps arguing he agrees with many Republicans regarding the federal health care law, aka "Obamacare."
Repeal and replace, he says.
Is there a doctor around to examine Barrow? Republican activists ask.
Republicans overwhelmingly want the entire law repealed, polls show. Barrow’s position is not strong enough, some GOP activists say.
The National Republican Congressional Committee recently announced it was paying for mobile billboards to drive through Barrow’s district to criticize what it says is his approach to health care.
"Congressman Barrow’s Plan: Put the IRS in charge of your health care," the ad says.
The ad includes a telephone number for anyone "fed up" with his plan. The ad quickly made the rounds on several political news sites, including The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Political Insider blog.
PolitiFact Georgia recently fact-checked a somewhat similar claim by the National Republican Senatorial Committee against Barrow and rated it Mostly False. We wanted to find out if the NRCC accurately reflected Barrow’s stance on this issue.
NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill said the billboard was based on Barrow’s votes against repealing the health care law.
"The IRS is in charge of implementing Obamacare," Prill said in one email.
The IRS, under fire for its role in scrutinizing some tea party groups and others, is in charge of determining whether individuals have insurance and collecting fines. The Washington Post Fact Checker column recently examined this issue and determined the NRCC claim deserved two Pinocchios, which means there were significant exaggerations or omissions. Other federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, are also involved in implementation of the law. Health and Human Services has taken the lead in organizing its implementation, providing information to the public about the law and providing oversight.
Barrow, who fashions himself as a moderate, is consistently one of the top Republican targets during election season. He’s the last white Democrat serving in the U.S. House from the Deep South. The five-term congressman has thus far successfully avoided GOP efforts to oust him.
Barrow’s camp says the claim is specious for several reasons. First, they note the congressman voted in 2010 against the legislation to create the contentious health care law.
Second, his office says Barrow’s approach to the law is similar to that of many Republicans. He wants to repeal some of the most controversial aspects of the law and keep some elements of it.
Barrow wants to remove:
The Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is designed to examine quality and access to care under the law, the effects of changes in payments to providers.
The individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or face a tax penalty.
An employer mandate that businesses with more than 50 full-time employees offer health care coverage to their employees or pay a penalty of $2,000 per worker above 30 employees.
The congressman wants to keep the provision that allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 years old.
Third, and most pertinent to the NRCC’s claim, Barrow voted against legislation in April 2011 that would fund as many as 16,500 IRS employees House Republicans said were needed to implement the health care law.
"Further proof that the NRCC is twisting the facts and exaggerating to make their claims," said Barrow spokesman Richard Carbo.
Prill pointed out that Barrow voted three times against repealing the law, most recently in May 2013 in a 229-195 vote. Every House Republican voted to repeal the law while only two Democrats voted in favor of repeal. The Democratic-led U.S. Senate has not supported repeal.
Barrow’s votes on portions of the health care law have been across the spectrum.
"There are a lot of good things in the bill. I don’t believe in voting against the parts that are good. ... We need to amend it, not end it," Barrow said after his vote in January 2011 to retain the law.
Prill said Barrow’s position is insufficient.
"At the end of the day, John Barrow had the opportunity to repeal this law and he chose not to. Whether it was political pressure from (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi or because he truly believes in this law, he made the decision to keep Obamacare in place and for it on Georgia families. It seems like if John Barrow really wanted to fix our health care system, he would have voted for repeal."
To sum up, the NRCC says in its mobile billboard that Barrow’s health care plan "puts the IRS in charge of your health care." Barrow didn’t vote to create the federal health care law. However, the NRCC points out that Barrow’s voted three times against repealing Obamacare, which they say is allowing the law to be implemented. Barrow supports repealing some of the most contentious parts of the law.
Barrow’s camp says what’s most important in this debate is the congressman voted against legislation that would fund additional IRS agents to implement the health care law. The billboards, they say, are disingenuous. It’s not really his plan. The IRS will be involved in the implementation of the law, but so, too, will other federal agencies.
We believe the billboards omit some important context. We rate this claim Mostly False.
National Republican Congressional Committee, "How GOPers are attacking Dems on the IRS," May 28, 2013.
Atlanta Journal Constitution Political Insider blog, "GOP hits John Barrow, still waiting on a candidate," May 28, 2013.
Emails from Barrow spokesman Richard Carbo, May 28, 2013.
Emails from NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill, May 29, 2013.
PolitiFact Georgia, "GOP attacks Barrow on ‘Obamacare’ votes," May 10, 2013.
Savannah Morning News, "Barrow does about-face on Obamacare," Jan. 20, 2011.
Vote on H.R. 1473, April 14, 2011.
Washington Post Fact Checker column, May 30, 2013.
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