Tomorrow, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will vote on a measure that would alter the definition of full-time work, for purposes of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, from 30 hours per week to 40 hours per week. The measure is likely to pass. The House approved a similar measure last Congress, but it never went anywhere in the Senate, which was then under Democratic control. Now that Republicans have a majority in the Senate, there’s a chance the measure could clear both chambers of Congress. The president threatens a veto. Yuval Levin writes this change “seems likely to be worse than doing nothing.”
I have a few questions about this supposed threat to ObamaCare:
- This legislation would reduce the burden of ObamaCare’s employer mandatem but it would also increase government spending by making more workers eligible for health-insurance subsidies through ObamaCare’s Exchanges. How is that a policy victory?
- The legislation would therefore shift part of ObamaCare’s cost from an organized and influential interest group (employers) to a disorganized and less-influential interest group (taxpayers). How is that strategically smart?
- The legislation would make ObamaCare more tolerable for an organized and influential interest group (again, employers), thereby reducing their incentive to lobby for full repeal. How is that strategically smart?
- House Republicans say they are committed to repealing ObamaCare entirely. If so, why is this bill, rather than a full-repeal bill, the first item on their agenda?
- House Republicans say this bill will show they can govern. But they also acknowledge the president will veto it. How is that governing?
- This legislation would merely lessen the burden of the employer mandate, and only for some employers. By June, however, the Supreme Court could completely invalidate employer-mandate penalties for all employers across 36 states. (See King v. Burwell.) How is this legislation a wise use of Congress’ time, when a Supreme Court ruling could go much farther in just a few months?
- A King ruling could also invalidate Exchange subsidies in 36 states, thereby exposing millions of Americans to the full cost of ObamaCare’s hidden taxes. That would give Congress more leverage than ever before to reopen and repeal the law. With this legislation, House Republicans are playing small ball with no leverage. How is that strategically smart?
- If enacted, this legislation would actually reduce the leverage a King ruling would give Congress to reopen and repeal ObamaCare. How is that strategically smart?
- The president has said he would veto this legislation. Given the above, should Republicans believe him?
Note that many of these questions also apply to repeal of the employer mandate before a King ruling, and sometimes after.
Update: I forgot a question. (Ten questions!)
10. This legislation would repeal a perverse incentive for employers to cut workers’ hours from just above to below 30 hours per week. It would replace that perverse incentive with a perverse incentive to cut the hours of other workers from just above to below 40 hours per week. Those other workers would complain that Republicans just made ObamaCare worse for them. How is that a political win, or strategically smart?
(Cross-posted at Darwin’s Fool.)