Morning Action: Immigration, Farm Bill, Student Loan Fights Continue

OBAMACARE.   Two-thirds of Americans do not know if they will enroll in Obamacare by January 1:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans who currently lack health insurance don’t know yet if they will purchase that coverage by the Jan. 1 deadline set by the ACA, a new survey revealed Monday.

And less than half of those in the survey released by think they’ll get better health care after Obamacare takes full effect. Nearly 50 percent believe the ACA will make it more difficult for them to get tests and procedures done in a timely manner, according to the phone survey of 1,001 adult Americans conducted in early May.

And a whopping 68 percent of low-income Americans aren’t sure they qualify for tax credits that would subsidize their purchase of health insurance—despite they fact that they almost invariably will qualify, the survey found. That population is most likely to benefit from government subsidies under the health-care reform law.

As Heritage has explained, Obamacare will increase healthcare costs while diminishing the quality of care because it’s really about power, not improving healthcare.  And as we have noted, young people will be harmed the most by Obamacare.

STUDENT LOANS.  Though both measures are expected to fail, the Senate will likely vote on the Senate and House student loan proposals:

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Friday that the Senate will vote during the first week of June on legislation to avert the scheduled interest rate increase. The vote could come as an amendment to the farm bill (S 954) that is pending on the floor, but will probably be done separately, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.

The aide said the chamber is likely to vote on two side-by-side student loan proposals: A Senate Democratic bill (S 953) to extend the current 3.4 percent fixed interest rate for two additional years, and the House-passed Republican bill (HR 1911) to avert the rate hike by shifting to a market-based variable rate that is pegged to the 10-year Treasury note.

Both measures would need a 60-vote threshold for passage and are likely to fail, according to the aide, potentially pushing both sides to come up with a compromise.

Republicans have said they have no appetite for again extending the current 3.4 percent interest rate, as Congress did last June (PL 112-141) after a three-month fight. Democrats propose paying for the $8 billion cost of such an extension by closing three tax loopholes.

From the other side, Obama and congressional Democrats have said they are open to shifting to a market-based variable interest rate — as called for in the bill passed by the House 221-198 on May 23 — and they have floated their own similar proposals.

IMMIGRATION. The Gang of Eight immigration reform bill would grant amnesty to the illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., but it fails to truly secure the border.   Apparently, the bill’s passage is contingent in part on ironing out differences on this issue between the supermajority and the GOP:

With Congress back this week to work on the measure, Senate negotiators want to pick up as many as two dozen Republican votes in a show of force that compels the House to act. But the result has to be much stricter than the current version of the bill to give it any hope of passing there either. They’ve got to do it without alienating the vast majority of Senate Democrats who like the bill as it is.

And whatever happens, it has to keep Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) satisfied.

Rubio, a key member of the Gang of Eight, is shopping around a proposal to have Congress — not the Department of Homeland Security — write the border control strategy that would be a prerequisite for most of the other elements of reform. Rubio hasn’t yet landed on specific parameters, but, arguing that Americans don’t trust their government to get it right, Rubio wants lawmakers to craft the plan at the outset, rather than leave the details up to the Obama administration.

But already, reform proponents worry that the Senate supermajority is an elusive goal that could undermine the bill, particularly on border security.

Heritage explains that failing to secure the border will produce the same negative effects as past immigration deals.

FARM BILL.  The Senate will resume work on the trillion-dollar farm and food stamp bill this week.  A coalition of farm groups, crop insurance companies, and environmental groups are working to ensure that they get taxpayer funded subsidies and that those subsidies are not limited by an amendment to the farm bill (sub. req’d):

The resumption of work on the farm bill comes after Stabenow spent much of the Memorial Day recess assuring farmers in her state the Senate would finish floor action during the first week in June.

The five-year bill appears to have strong bipartisan support, but the timing for a vote on passage remains unsettled. Stabenow and Cochran are working to reach an agreement to limit time and amendments. A senior Democratic aide indicated Stabenow and Cochran have until sometime Monday to conclude negotiations. If there is no agreement, the aide said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may file for cloture on Tuesday with a vote to limit debate likely by Thursday.

The Senate so far has disposed of nine amendments with roll call votes while Stabenow and Cochran agreed to a handful of additional amendments. That’s a small dent in the nearly 200 amendments still pending. An amendment on student loan rates backed by President Barack Obama might be added to the list but Senate leaders were uncertain on Friday as to how they would proceed with the proposal.

As we have explained, the farm and food stamp bill is in serious need of reform, especially in light of our debt nearing $17 trillion.


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