President Obama is playing shell game with tax dollars in order to rush implementation of Obamacare before the Supreme Court strikes it down.
It may also be a ploy to bring Obamacare implementation so far along, that the Supreme Court will be reluctant to overturn the entire bill.
The shell game involves a $1 billion appropriation to HHS - Republicans call it a "slush fund" - that the agency can use as it sees fit. Half of the funding has been transferred from HHS to the IRS in order to set up enforcement structures for those who fail to buy insurance under the individual mandate.
The Obama administration has plowed ahead despite the legal and political challenges.
It has moved aggressively to get important policies in place. And, according to a review of budget documents and figures provided by congressional staff, the administration is also burning through implementation funding provided in the healthcare law.
The law contains dozens of targeted appropriations to implement specific provisions. It also gave the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) a $1 billion implementation fund, to use as it sees fit. Republicans have called it a "slush fund."
HHS plans to drain the entire fund by September - before the presidential election, and more than a year before most of the healthcare law takes effect. Roughly half of that money will ultimately go to the IRS.
HHS has transferred almost $200 million to the IRS over the past two years and plans to transfer more than $300 million this year, according to figures provided by a congressional aide.
The Government Accountability Office has said the transfers are perfectly legal and consistent with how agencies have used general implementation funds in the past. The $1 billion fund was set aside for "federal" implementation activities, the GAO said, and can therefore be used by any agency - not just HHS, where the money is housed.
Still, significant transfers to the IRS and other agencies leave less money for HHS, and the department needs to draw on the $1 billion fund for some of its biggest tasks.
The transfers may be legal, but they are hardly transparent. And what if Obamacare is overturned in its entirety? The money will have been wasted - an argument not made during the SCOTUS hearings but one which the Supreme Court cannot be unaware.
And if you think the IRS is too aggressive, too overbearing, and too big now, just wait:
The healthcare law includes a slew of new taxes and fees, some of which are already in effect. The tax agency wants to hire more than 300 new employees next year to cover those tax changes, such as the new fees on drug companies and insurance policies.
The IRS will also administer the most expensive piece of the new law -- subsidies to help low-income people pay for insurance, which are structured as tax credits. The agency asked Congress to fund another 537 new employees dedicated to administering the new subsidies.
Guess the Democrats forgot to mention the new, unimproved, vastly expanded IRS that the taxpayer will have to deal with when they were pushing Obamacare two years ago.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky