WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- The chairman of the Republican Governors Association said that while he'll let Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) explain comments comparing the Internal Revenue Service with the Nazi Gestapo, he believes the IRS has a new role because of the Supreme Court health care decision.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told The Huffington Post that he believes the Supreme Court decision that rules the Affordable Care Act a tax provides the IRS with greater power over American citizens. He said $500 million in new revenue may come from the new interpretation of the law, along with new enforcement powers for the IRS. McDonnell, a potential Mitt Romney running mate, is hosting this weekend's National Governors Association conference here, where health care is expected to be a major topic.
"It gives them a new role in the governance of American citizens," McDonnell said of the IRS.
LePage made the Gestapo comparison last week, saying that the court's ruling of the individual mandate as a tax means Americans have to pay the IRS if they don't purchase health insurance. The Maine Republican reaffirmed his characterization of the IRS on Thursday, saying that he believed the IRS could be headed in the direction of the Nazis. LePage issued an apology on Friday.
McDonnell initially said, "I'll leave those comments to Governor LePage."
But then he launched into his explanation of the new IRS role following the Supreme Court's ruling. He said that he believed LePage was trying to explain the new powers in the same way he was.
"I would have said things differently," McDonnell said.
Several other Republican governors declined to comment on LePage's remarks. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said he had not seen LePage's statement. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he does not comment "on the off-hand remarks of other state's governors."
Health care is expected to be a major focus of this weekend's conference, with the group's health committee scheduled to address the issue during a meeting Saturday morning. McDonnell said that he believes there is too much "uncertainty" surrounding the law because of the court decision interpeting the individual mandate as a tax rather than under the commerce clause. He said he and other GOP governors are waiting for answers from the Obama administration on the Medicaid expansion, which the court made voluntary for states.
McDonnell and other GOP governors expressed concern over the future viability of Medicaid and the cost for states. Under the law, 90 percent of Medicaid expansion would be covered by the federal government. The Republicans are calling for changes to the program. Branstad said the changes and financing questions are his top concerns.
"I don't believe in making false promises," Branstad told HuffPost.
The Republicans, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, said the presidential election also is part of the decision-making process, with the GOP hoping Mitt Romney would repeal the law if elected.
"If the president wins we will be in the same place," Mead said. He said he's deferring any decisions until his state legislature reconvenes in January.