Congress actually working?

The Hill reports on three bills that will be voted in the House under the suspension of rules.  Suspending the rules requires a 2/3rds vote for a bill to pass the House.  Normally, I would not write about minor house keeping bills, but something interesting is in all three of the bills:

One bill dealing with religious exemptions under the healthcare law seems sure to pass: the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, H.R. 1814. This bill from, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), has 216 co-sponsors, including 78 Democrats, so a two-thirds majority seems to be in reach.

The legislation would create a new exemption under ObamaCare that lets people avoid buying health insurance if they have a religious reason for doing so. The bill would require these people to file an affidavit as part of their tax returns saying their beliefs keep them from buying insurance that meets federal standards…..

I have no problem with this tweak.  The Amish and others have long been exempt from social insurance taxes and mandates. 

Another bill with broad bipartisan support is the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, H.R. 3979. This bill would ensure that volunteer emergency responders are not required to be offered health insurance under the law.

This is a clarification. I don’t think it is needed due to current IRS rule-making excludes volunteer first responders from any employee counts and employer obligations, but a minor clarification as law instead of regulation is a legitimate use of Congressional power in a potential gray area.

The third suspension bill is the Hire More Heroes Act, H.R. 3474. It would create an incentive for companies to hire veterans, since veteran workers already covered by the federal veterans health program would not have to be counted as a full-time employee for the purposes of ObamaCare.

This is a minor tweak that will affect almost no one. It basically is a subsidy of up to $2,000 for a selected class of veterans to be hired at companies that are just over the 50 employee threshold. The subsidy won’t apply to small companies as they are not covered by the employer mandate, nor will it matter at some place like General Electric. But for small companies, it is a minor nudge to hire a veteran with VA health coverage than anyone else.

As I see it, two bills are at best minor clarifications of a gray area, and the third is a minor indirect subsidy to veterans’ employment.  None of them are inherently a big deal.   However the big fucking deal is that the House is acting like a typical House now.  It is cleaning up previously passed laws, making minor tweaks to clarify Congressional intent and sending minor goodies to politically favored groups.  They are acting normal, and that has been abnormal for the past three years.






54 replies
  1. 1
    Bobby Thomson says:

    Previously passed, not previously past, unless you are a time lord.

    Interesting post.

  2. 2

    “‘The legislation would create a new exemption under ObamaCare that lets people avoid buying health insurance if they have a religious reason for doing so…’

    I have no problem with this tweak”

    I have a big problem with this tweak and every other religious exemption. Every rightwing loser will ask for the exemption and the government will be powerless to determine which religion is “legitimate” and which aren’t. We need less religious exemptions in laws, not more.

  3. 3
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    The bill would require these people to file an affidavit as part of their tax returns saying their beliefs keep them from buying insurance that meets federal standards…..

    THen anyone who signs this affidavit should be barred from accessing the health care system in any way forever. I think this is a ridiculous loophole that would be created because you know morans in red states will try to use this to get out of paying for anything healthcare-related.

    If anything happens to them, and we all know it will, then they should be denied access to any hospital anywhere in the country. So sorry, moran. Maybe your skybuddy will help you when you’ve been in a vehicle accident.

  4. 4
    NonyNony says:

    However the big fucking deal is that the House is acting like a typical House now. It is cleaning up previously past laws, making minor tweaks to clarify Congressional intent and sending minor goodies to politically favored groups.

    I’m skeptical – that sounds a bit like fiction these days.

    Are you sure that there aren’t any secret riders to repeal Obamacare embedded in any of these? Or maybe something something Benghazi?

  5. 5
    Tata says:

    H.R. 3979. This bill would ensure that volunteer emergency responders are not required to be offered health insurance under the law.

    In what way does not having insurance protect these vulnerable people? I can see where it might protect the volunteer fire and EMS departments, but it sounds like it hangs the actual volunteers out to dry.

  6. 6
    Violet says:

    @The Other Bob: No they won’t. Most rightwing losers are on Medicare, so they won’t ask for any exemptions. Those that are not are mostly working for companies providing health insurance, which is why they’re so free with screaming about others getting something they have.

    For the rest, it’ll be a split between people that actually want health insurance and will quietly go on an exchange and get it and the crazy people who were going to pay the fine anyway. The number of people who will do that will actually be quiet small.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    NonyNony says:

    @RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual:

    If anything happens to them, and we all know it will, then they should be denied access to any hospital anywhere in the country.

    No. That’s just pointlessly vindictive for no reason.

    They should be given full access for emergency care. And then charged the full non-negotiated amount for that care. Just like what happens now if you don’t have insurance.

    Sure that will bankrupt them, but they can go move in with their pastor. I’m sure he or she will welcome them with open arms and pay for nursing care out of his or her own pocket, right?

  9. 9

    @raven: Thanks for the correction. I was spitting at the screen as I typed, so proper grammar was not at the forefront of my thoughts.

  10. 10
    raven says:

    @Tata: I think it’s about volunteer fire departments not having the money to buy insurance.

  11. 11
    NonyNony says:

    @raven:

    Which means that the name of the bill is yet another piece of Orwellian nonsense, since you’d think that a bill with that name would be something extending health care guarantees to volunteer emergency responders injured on the job.

  12. 12
  13. 13
    raven says:

    Fire companies and other emergency crews that depend on volunteers to respond to calls can now officially breathe a sign of relief.

    U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazelton, (left).planned to introduce legislation that would exempt volunteer fire companies from having to comply with the Affordable Care Act but it turns out a law is not necessary. The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service exempted those volunteer squads from the mandate in their final regulations governing a section of the federal health care law released on Monday. Pictured with Barletta is Duncannon Fire Company Deputy Chief Bryan Worner.
    Submitted

    The final regulations for implementing the employer responsibility provisions under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act released on Monday make it official: bonafide volunteers for a government or tax-exempt entity are exempted from being counted as full-time employees

  14. 14
    maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor says:

    @The Other Bob:

    and the government will be powerless to determine which religion is “legitimate” and which aren’t.

    Except they’ve been doing just that for the past few hundred years or so.

    @RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual:

    If anything happens to them, and we all know it will, then they should be denied access to any hospital anywhere in the country. So sorry, moran.

    Identifying with the aggressor: the new black.

  15. 15
    Tommy says:

    The third suspension bill is the Hire More Heroes Act, H.R. 3474. It would create an incentive for companies to hire veterans, since veteran workers already covered by the federal veterans health program would not have to be counted as a full-time employee for the purposes of ObamaCare.

    Not so sure what I think about this. Years ago I used to work in DC. At an ad agency where my clients were mostly firms that sold to the Federal government. This was pre-9/11. I was always told, if possible, hire a vet. Or if all things were equal hire a vet.

    IMHO we need programs to promote hiring a vet if all things are not equal. Lets start there.

  16. 16
    Tata says:

    @raven: Yes, that’s what I said: the actual volunteers are vulnerable.

  17. 17
    PurpleGirl says:

    Re: Volunteer firefighters — I think the assumption is that they may have insurance from their regular job. Also if the volunteer company has to provide insurance, the fire companies won’t be able to afford to do it.

  18. 18
    Tommy says:

    @PurpleGirl: I’ll have to look into this. Fire fighters in my town are all volunteer. Clearly, since they are volunteers not a full-time job. Come to think of it, I got no idea what benefits if any the city offers them.

    Now if I was a small business owner I’d LOVE the fact somebody that worked for me was a volunteer fire fighter. Just not so sure I’d want the health care I provided for them, well covered what might happen to them when fighting said fires.

    You know, just saying.

  19. 19
    Brendan in NC says:

    It’s not that surprising. They’re doing this so they can say they actually did something this session, so the rubes will reelect them.

  20. 20
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    The Amish and others have long been exempt from social insurance taxes and mandates.

    And then they don’t participate in the system. The Amish are playing. The right wing folks aren’t going to forgo healthcare. They are going to try to ride for free. This is a terrible tweak to the ACA; I hope it goes down in flames.

  21. 21
    Mike in NC says:

    No impeachment riders on any of these bills? Read the fine print!

  22. 22
    maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Where do you stand on letting Quakers out of military service?

  23. 23
    feebog says:

    Well, not with the Constitution you don’t.

    She has crossed the line into Palinland. Or maybe she was there first, it’s sometimes hard to tell.

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor: I would say that simply being a Quaker should not give you an automatic pass during a draft. Being a conscientious objector is a different story. IIf we ever had a situation again which called for a draft, COs who were drafted could perform other national service roles that did not require the use of violence.

  25. 25
    WaterGirl says:

    @Violet: I’d be willing to bet that there are plenty of people who are dumb enough to file for the exemption, and then, when their Medicare or Medicaid is taken away, they will be sure that it’s punishment for having filed the exemption.

  26. 26
    NotMax says:

    Have not read the new bill, but based on the description here I fail to see how it differs substantively from the religious conscience exemption from the mandate which is already and has always been in ACA.

    Strikes me more as grandstanding in an election year than it does as passing any sort of change or alteration to ACA.

  27. 27
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act?

    They may be acting something like a normal House, but their red-meat rhetoric hasn’t gone anywhere.

  28. 28
    piratedan says:

    after years of reading these blogs I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of wingnuts to abuse the law, just look at the “religious exemption” laws in the State legislatures that propose to allow sanctioned discrimination? I foresee the same thing where someone who has little tenuous tie with reality using this loophole to attempt to “screw big government” sworn affidavits be damned…..

  29. 29
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: There aren’t that many cafeteria Quakers/Friends.

  30. 30
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @NotMax: And acording to raven’s link, the firefighter thing was already covered by IRS regulations, too.

  31. 31
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Bobby Thomson: That’s fine. If all Quakers happen to be COs, so be it. I prefer that the standard be applied to the individual not the group. That happens to comport with current US law on the subject as well.

  32. 32
    Richard Mayhew says:

    As I said, two of the proposals are minor tweaks or clarifications of potential gray areas, and one is a minor indirect subsidy to a particular group. None of them are earth shattering. Their total import is slightly more than the typical rename the post-office bill that can pass into law right now. However, they are actual legislation trying to deal with actual or potential problems in PPACA, and they’ll probably clear the House with 70% of the vote and eventually get signed into law. That is different.

  33. 33
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @NonyNony:

    Sure that will bankrupt them, but they can go move in with their pastor. I’m sure he or she will welcome them with open arms and pay for nursing care out of his or her own pocket, right?

    They will also be unable to afford long-term care for such afflictions as diabetes because ERs don’t provide it. Then there’s the cup o’ schadenfreude that comes with the visions of them being hounded by collection agencies for the rest of their wretched lives.

  34. 34
    NonyNony says:

    @Bobby Thomson:

    And acording to raven’s link, the firefighter thing was already covered by IRS regulations, too.

    Richard also mentioned that in the top level post.

    Still – it’s good for the legislature to make tweaks to laws to indicate their intent. If the IRS has made the decision they would make anyway, putting that into law prevents a later administration from changing it. And if the IRS has made a decision they disagree with, clarifying the law is a good thing. That’s how this all works.

    Of course, there’ no reason to name it something as ridiculously backwards as Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act. But I guess to a degree that’s a bit of normalcy too – they wouldn’t be Republicans if they weren’t naming their proposed bills exactly the opposite from what they actually do.

  35. 35
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Richard Mayhew: It doesn’t make the religious exemption bill a good idea.

  36. 36
    muricafukyea says:

    Are your really that daft accidental ACA troll Richard? What you failed to mention is that the Republicans are selling these bills and ACA repeal bills! Technically they are. Anything that removes provisions and adds exemptions is technically a repeal bill.

    A rather important point. Understandable you failed to mention that since you seem to have decided to make this a good news story which it most definitely is NOT. It’s business as usual for Republicans! In their mind it’s ACA death by 1000 paper cuts.

  37. 37
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I understand the technical distinction, but your comment suggested that it would have actual practical implications. No one gets out of combat just by being Amish, either, but everyone understands what we mean when we say that the Amish are exempt from combat service.

  38. 38
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I disagree; the people who take advantage of the religious exemption are self-selecting to die from preventable disease. I’m just cynical enough and more then sufficiently fed up with the God botherers’ excessive influence on politics to be unsympathetic should they choose an early and painful death.

  39. 39
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I disagree; the people who take advantage of the religious exemption are self-selecting to die from preventable disease. I’m just cynical enough and more then sufficiently fed up with the God botherers’ excessive influence on politics to be unsympathetic should they choose an early and painful death.

  40. 40
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    I’d say FYWP re my duplicate comment but, I’m the one who fat-fingered it. Apologies.

  41. 41
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Bobby Thomson: I think the difference is philosophical not technical. And I think it matters. YMMV. Quakers tend to be exempt because they are COs, not because they are Quakers. Not all Quakers are or have been COs. Not all COs are religious. The conscience that matters is that of the individual being asked to serve in the military.

  42. 42
    Dennis says:

    @NonyNony: Agreed. This is Congress working, only so long as the bipartisanship is about religion, first responders, and veterans. In other words, basically stuff that are Republican hobby horses and nobody can afford to be against. No give from the R side on anything.

    And that religious exemption will be big enough to drive a truck through.

  43. 43
    Gene108 says:

    @RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual:

    There is a religious exemption for military service. Few people can successfully invoke it.

    I hope the religious exemption will be similarly interpreted.

  44. 44
    Joel says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: You mean, like “volunteer” for medical experiments?

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Gene108: It is not a religious exemption. One must be opposed to war in any form and the opposition must be sincere. It is a very high standard and few do meet it.

  46. 46
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Joel: No. But you knew that, didn’t you?

  47. 47
    mfasano says:

    my affidavit would read “I can’t provide insurance to my employees because I worship $.

  48. 48
    dollared says:

    @Dennis: This. And 78 stupid, weak, pandering Democrats.

  49. 49
    another Holocene human says:

    @maximiliano furtive, formerly known as dr. bloor: What about all those pacifists who went to prison during wwi and wwii?

    Sounds like obamacare objectors don’t have the courage of their convictions. They’d just like a sweet tax break.

  50. 50
    Mnemosyne says:

    If this is an accurate description:

    The bill would require these people to file an affidavit as part of their tax returns saying their beliefs keep them from buying insurance that meets federal standards…..

    Then I do actually worry about this, because there are a LOT of scam artists offering “Christian” health insurance where they pick and choose what they want to cover. I know they’re currently legal, but it seems like a really bad idea to have a (at least) two-track system where some people have real health insurance and others don’t.

  51. 51
    Tata says:

    Seriously: why would it be a good thing for Congress to act to hang the first responders out to dry? Nowhere in this thread does anyone explain how this could be a good thing, as Mayhew says in the initial post.

  52. 52
    dollared says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yes. Of course. Why didn’t I think of this? Every bullshit “catastrophic care” plan with a $10,000 deductible and a $100,000 benefit max will be renamed after First Corinthians. “Love is large copays and disappearing coverage when you need it most.”

  53. 53
    Carol says:

    @The Other Bob: The tweak should stipulate that if the claimant seeks medical help they are up S**T Creek and will be solely responsible for any bills incurred.

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Tata:

    It’s possible — but someone would have to check — that the volunteer firefighters may already have to be insured against on-the-job accidents or injuries (essentially, they have worker’s comp coverage for their volunteer job) by the departments they volunteer with. If that’s the case, then it might be okay to say that it’s not necessary for the fire department to also cover their day-to-day health insurance for non-work-related issues.

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