Week Ending January 8, 2016
President Obama Vetoes Bill Gutting the Affordable Care Act
Today, President Obama vetoed H.R. 3762, legislation that would have gutted the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate passed the bill in December on a largely partisan vote of 52 to 47, using special rules (“reconciliation”) that allows just a majority vote rather than the 60 votes generally required to proceed on legislation. All Democrats opposed the bill, along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). The House passed the bill this week also with a largely party-line vote of 240 to 181. All Democrats opposed except Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), and all Republicans voted in favor except Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL), Richard Hanna (R-NY) and John Katko (R-NY). AFSCME strongly opposed this legislation. Visit our website to view our letter to the House of Representatives. (http://www.afscme.org/issues/health-care/letters-statement)
H.R. 3762 was the GOP-controlled Congress’s 60th attempt to eviscerate the ACA. It would have eliminated the employer and individual responsibility requirements, the Medicaid expansion and tax credits that help low-income families and small businesses obtain coverage. This would result in millions of Americans losing their health care coverage including millions of children, and drive up premiums in the individual insurance market. The bill also repealed the Prevention and Public Health Fund, eliminating the nation’s largest single investment in illness prevention and undermining efforts to control costs by preventing chronic diseases.
Additional reasons AFSCME opposed H.R. 3762 are it repealed the modest tax on medical device manufacturers and the annual fee on health insurers, industries which profit substantially from the expansion of health coverage under the ACA. And, the one year elimination of federal funding for women’s health services provided by Planned Parenthood would have blocked millions of women from having access to health care services. While the bill also repealed the 40% tax on high cost, employer-sponsored health benefits, which AFSCME supports, this tax should not be included in a bill that would eliminate health coverage for millions of families. The tax package Congress passed and President Obama signed into law in December postpones the implementation of the 40% tax from 2018 to 2020. AFSCME will continue to strongly advocate for the complete elimination of this tax that unfairly targets workers’ health benefits and is ineffective in addressing the real drivers of high health care costs.
The House GOP leadership has vowed to vote this month to override President Obama’s veto, but they do not have the two-thirds vote required. The Senate also falls short.
House Pursues Radical Regulatory Agenda
The House of Representatives considered two harmful regulatory reform bills this week, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (H.R. 712) and the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act (H.R. 1155). Both bills would severely weaken public health and safety protections and limit the nation’s ability to respond to any future public health crisis. H.R. 712 directly undercuts critical health, safety and environmental protections and would grind executive agency administrative rulemaking to an abrupt halt. It was approved on a party-line vote of 244 to 173. H.R. 1155’s purported goal is to provide for retroactive review of regulations, but the legislation is unnecessary since a robust retroactive review process already exists. The new requirements of this bill would actually weaken the review process and create greater uncertainty in the regulatory process. It would also increase costs for state and local governments as well as businesses. H.R. 1155 was approved by a similar party-line vote of 245 to 174. President Obama has threated to veto both bills should they reach his desk.
Class Action Lawsuits
The House is expected to approve the so-called “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act” (H.R. 1927), which makes substantial changes in federal tort system rules in an effort to reduce the number of consumer lawsuits filed. Under the bill’s new rules, federal courts would be prohibited from certifying any class action unless the party pursuing the class action demonstrates, through admissible evidentiary proof, “that each proposed class member suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative or representatives.” The bill makes it more difficult for victims to obtain compensation for their injuries, thereby shielding corporate wrongdoers. The overall effect is to deny plaintiffs access to justice by forcing victims to bring separate lawsuits, which would be much more costly, burdensome and time-consuming. H.R. 1927 also incorporates unrelated language from the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2015 (H.R. 526), which creates disincentives to victims seeking reimbursement for their injuries from an asbestos settlement trust set up through bankruptcy by making their personally identifiable information publicly available on the Internet and by establishing burdensome new reporting requirements on these asbestos settlement trusts. AFSCME opposed these bills and President Obama has threatened to veto them.
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