GOP pokes at Peterson on healthcare and the IRS

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is one of four House Democrats who are the target of a Republican campaign this week to draw attention to the Internal Revenue Service scandal while also getting a hit in on the federal affordable care act.

The National Republican Campaign Committee has put signs on trucks saying that the lawmakers support putting the IRS in charge of health care. Here’s a picture of the sign that was unveiled in Peterson’s hometown of Detroit Lakes on Tuesday, courtesy of an NRCC spokeswoman:

The claim requires a lot of context. Peterson was one a small group of Democrats to vote against the health care law in the House in 2010 when it was passed. Peterson has subsequently voted against GOP bills that would repeal the law, including a measure almost two weeks ago that passed the House almost entirely along party lines and faces no chance of passage in the Senate.

“He had an opportunity to represent his district and vote his district and vote for the repeal but chose not to,” said Minnesota GOP Chair Keith Downey of the recent repeal vote.

The IRS will implement some parts of the law, and now that some in the IRS have admitted that some agency staffers gave additional scrutiny to conservative groups, Republicans argue the IRS’s role in implementing the health care law should also be questioned, hence inclusion of the IRS in the attack on Peterson.

This latest campaign against Peterson is part of a long ritual for Republicans in the 7th District. The area has voted for GOP candidates at the top of the ticket for years while returning Peterson to Washington at the same time.

With the demise of many swing districts over the past decade, Peterson is one of a dwindling number of House Democrats to represent territory that Republicans see as theirs.

Peterson has survived in conservative-leaning territory by spending much of his congressional career focused on agricultural issues that are essential to the largely rural district and by regularly voting with Republicans on issues such as abortion, gun control and the environment to demonstrate his independence from national Democrats.

“It’s pretty clear that the NRCC is out of touch with the vast majority of Republicans in the 7th District who support Congressman Peterson and who appreciate his work to get the farm bill passed in spite of the Republican leaders who are buying billboards to attack him,” said Peterson spokeswoman Allison Myhre in a statement to MPR News.

Downey was confident that the GOP would finally field a candidate in 2014 who could unseat Peterson but did not name any potential contenders.