Washington (CNN) – After some of their political groups were targeted for extra scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service, members of the tea party say they feel a new justification for their claims of government overreach and big government.
Speaking at a rally on Capitol Hill Thursday, Rep. Michele Bachmann said the IRS's actions – which resulted in the resignation of the acting commissioner of the agency – could reflect a greater undercurrent of political misdeeds being carried out by the federal government. She specifically cited the president's health care law as a measure rife with opportunities to play political games.
"Knowing it's the IRS who will be the enforcing mechanism for this new entitlement program of Obamacare, it is very important to ask – and now it is reasonable to ask – could there be potential political implications of access to healthcare, denial of healthcare? Will that happen based upon a person's political beliefs, or their religiously held beliefs?" asked Bachmann at the rally, which was attended by senators and representatives who were elected to office with support of tea party groups.
"Those questions would have been considered out of bounds a week ago," continued the Minnesota Republican and 2012 candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, who herself worked at the IRS as an attorney at the beginning of her career. "Today these questions are considered more than reasonable, and more than fair for the American people.
Tea party groups have long been wary of the president's health care law, and Republicans in Congress will vote for the thirty-seventh time to repeal the measure on Thursday.
The groups have also been skeptical of government overreach into the personal lives of citizens, a fact lawmakers at Thursday's rally linked to the Justice Department seizure of phone records from reporters and editors at the Associated Press.
Those revelations coincided with renewed interest in September's attack at an American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya – long a rallying cry for tea party members who use it to claim incompetence and deception from Obama's national security team.
Combined, the events of the last several days appeared to confirm in the minds of tea party Republicans their longstanding sense the government is working against them.
"The three events of the last few days – the IRS, the AP, and Benghazi – tend to confirm our worst fears about our government," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said at Thursday's rally. "They tend to tell us what we don't want to believe, but what sometimes turns out to be true. That your government is targeting you. That your government is spying on you. And that your government is lying to you."
At least one lawmaker, Bachmann, even floated the notion of impeachment during the event, saying what happened at the IRS was a scandal worse than Watergate, the criminal incident that brought down President Richard Nixon.
"As I have been home in my district, in the sixth district of Minnesota, there hasn't been a weekend that's gone by without someone saying, 'Michelle, what in the world are you all waiting for in Congress. Why aren't you impeaching the president. He's been making unconstitutional actions since he's been in Congress,'" she said.
Obama's response to the mess – including demanding the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller – has only scratched the surface, said Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
"Someone needs to be held responsible. Someone needs to be imprisoned. Someone needs to be prosecuted," said Paul, who won election with tea party support in 2010 and has said he's eyeing a run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. "The resignation is a step in the right direction, but we need to find out who wrote this policy, who approved this policy, and they need to be held accountable."
Bachmann, citing reports Miller has planned to step down in June anyway, described the resignation as a "canard" meant to allay citizens' fears without truly addressing the problem.
"Yesterday the president engaged in damage control 101," she said. "He wanted to stop the story because the president's had a no good, very bad week this last week."