House Passes Change to ACA Workweek Hours

 

We are following this story closely, and we will bring you updates as soon as possible. Please note, this measure may not pass the Senate and is certainly going to get a veto from POTUS.

Ignoring a veto threat from the President, the House on Thursday passed a measure to raise from 30 to 40 the number of hours a person must work before their employer is required to provide health insurance under the ACA. Much of the print coverage of the vote describes it as the opening salvo in an effort by congressional Republicans to weaken the ACA. The AP (1/9, Fram) reports that the bill passed 252-172, in “a mostly party-line” vote. Speaking to the press, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) criticized President Obama’s veto threat, saying, “Given the chance to start with a burst of bipartisan productivity, the president turned his back on the American people’s priorities,” but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “said Democrats would sustain Obama’s” veto.

The Washington Times (1/9, Dinan) reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “said Mr. Obama’s veto is the key to Democrats’ legislative strategy this year.” She noted the leverage that comes from having “a Democrat in the White House” and said “our upholding his veto strengthens the hand of the minority in a debate of this kind.” Pelosi was referring to the President’s threat to veto three measures concerning the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank bill, and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Reuters (1/9, Morgan, Lawder) reports that 12 Democrats voted in favor of the measure, and Republican leaders are hoping other bills designed to chip away at the Affordable Care Act will also win Democratic support.

USA Today (1/8, Groppe) reports that a vote on the measure has not been scheduled in the Senate, “where Republicans need the support of six Democrats to bring it to the floor and even more to override a veto,” and the Wall Street Journal (1/8, Hughes, Subscription Publication) says Senate Republicans have not lined up the needed Democratic votes.

The New York Times (1/9, Weisman, Subscription Publication) reports that the legislation has “some Democratic support” in the Senate, “possibly even enough to muster 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster.” It notes that Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN) and Joe Manchin III (WV) are co-sponsoring a bill that “will be one of the first tests of Democratic unity for a party that is in the minority in the Senate for the first time since 2007.”

However, the Los Angeles Times (1/9, Levey) notes that, since the GOP lacks “a veto-proof majority,” the bill’s prospects in the Senate “are unclear.” Referring to the possibility that the Supreme Court will nix the subsidies that help millions of Americans afford health insurance under the ACA, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said this “is the one thing that will force the president’s hand — that will force the president to negotiate with Republicans on a transition and a replacement.”

The Hill (1/9, Hooper) reports that bill co-sponsor Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) said of President Obama’s veto threat, “I would hope that [Obama] would reconsider based on the popularity of this bill … but we’ll continue to make the argument even if the president is averse to any changes in terms of improving our nation’s healthcare laws.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News (1/8, House) reports that Rep. Young said the bill, H.R. 30, would remove the “perverse incentive” for employers to cut the schedules of hourly workers, citing “analysts who say 2.6 million workers in the U.S. earn less than $30,000 a year and are most at risk.” However, Sen. Sander Levin (D-MI), top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said it would hurt many more, because “Census data show that the vast majority of U.S. employees work 40 hours or more a week.”

The Washington Times (1/8, Howell) reports that Republicans reject claims that “an even larger pool of workers — those who put in 40 hours per week — would see their hours cut to 39 or less if the bill becomes law,” arguing that the current threshold is preventing people from working. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) “accused the GOP of hypocrisy…saying they’ve feigned concern for struggling Americans. ‘I presume,’ he said, ‘the minimum wage bill will be on the floor next week.’”

In its coverage of the story, MSNBC (1/9, Khimm) notes that Democrats, including White House spokesman Josh Earnest, warn that raising the threshold to 40 hours would increase the Federal deficit and cause more workers to lose employer health coverage. MSNBC reports that an editorial in the conservative National Review made the same argument: “Republican leadership has an odd idea for one of its first big policy pushes of this Congress: a change to Obamacare that threatens to make the law worse.”

Under the headline, “House Passes Bill To Weaken ObamaCare,” the Huffington Post (1/8, McAuliff) said the vote was “yet another attempt to roll back” the ACA, adding that while House Republicans said that the bill “protects the 40-hour workweek,” the CBO “warned as recently as Wednesday that the measure was likely to create even more part-time workers.”

The Daily Caller (1/9, Hurtubise), however, reports that a policy brief published Thursday by free-market think tank American Action Forum suggested that, of the roughly 78 million people who currently work between 40 and 45 hours per week, only 9.3 million would be at risk of losing hours. It said slightly more would be affected if the threshold remains at 30 hours per week.

Modern Healthcare (1/8, Demko, Subscription Publication) reports that the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, slammed H.R. 30 as “simply another attempt by Republicans to sabotage the federal healthcare law. ‘The Republicans know that they can’t repeal it outright, so now they’re trying to do it piece by piece.’”

Politico (1/8, Pradhan) said the bill was “the first step of the new Republican Congress’ plan to dismantle as much of Obamacare as it can,” adding that while the House “has cleared more than 50 assorted measures to repeal or roll back Obamacare,” this is “the first time the House can propel legislation to a GOP-controlled Senate, potentially forcing President Barack Obama to either accept changes to his signature domestic achievement or use his veto power.”

The Hill (1/8, Ferris, Marcos) called the legislation “the GOP’s first chance to deliver an anti-ObamaCare bill to the president’s desk,” but noted that “one Democratic aide said they would be ‘surprised’ if the bill made it through the Senate, pointing to skepticism among Democrats as well as conservative Republicans who’d still rather repeal ObamaCare in full.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (1/8, Tozzi), Fox News (1/8), Congressional Quarterly (1/9, Attias, Subscription Publication), and Alabama Live (1/9, Kirby) also report.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary