Morning Action: Obamacare’s Revolving Door
Revolving Door. The Washington Post broke the news this morning that Speaker John Boehner’s press secretary is leaving “Boehnerland” and heading to America’s Health Insurance Plans. AHIP represents thousands of health-care providers and has recently spoken out against efforts to impose budget neutrality on Obamacare’s “risk corridors” program, which is an insurer bailout. Not surprisingly, AHIP heaped praise on their new hire:
[His] experience and skill set will allow him to hit the ground running on day one. He’s an effective communicator who knows how to tackle complex policy issues and skillfully navigate an ever-changing health care and media environment. We are delighted to welcome him to our team.
2014. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney explains the political headwinds are behind a conservative, anti-cronyism agenda:
Republicans can make the 2014 election a referendum on corporate welfare, forcing Democrats to defend government handouts to well-connected big businesses. That is, if Republicans actually oppose government handouts to well-connected big businesses.
The Obama administration and congressional Democrats line up squarely with K Street on many pressing issues today. Congressional conservatives and activist groups are itching for a fight. And there are many potential battlefields.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has proposed to kill the insurer bailouts included in Obamacare. The 2010 health care law included a “risk corridor” provision, effectively taxing insurers for excess profits and subsidizing them if their profits were too low. For 2014, this could amount to bailouts to health insurers. Rubio’s bill would prevent that.
Obamacare is unpopular. Insurers are unpopular. Corporate bailouts are unpopular. And the Democrats are pinned against the wall — they have to defend these bailouts. This is an easy win for Republicans — if they’re willing.
Taxes. Harry Reid’s iron fist is once again turning bipartisan energy legislation into a procedural boondoggle (and that’s not a bad thing because the underlying policy is terrible), which means the Senate will turn its attention to its tax extenders package (which is also terrible). The Washington Examiner explains:
With no deal in sight, the bill is likely to fail on Monday, leaving lawmakers to debate a tax cut bill that is far more popular.
At a cost of $85 billion, the bill would extend by two years or longer more than 50 tax cut measures for businesses and individuals that expired at the end of last year.
For individuals, they include deduction of mortgage interest premiums, college tuition, charitable contributions and employer-subsidized mass transit costs.
Corporate tax credits in the bill include the popular research and experimentation tax credit and tax breaks for racehorse owners and rum producers.
Roll Call reported last week that Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., may try to amend the legislation with a provision to extend the expired federal unemployment insurance benefits, which have stalled since passing the Senate earlier this year. Republicans have refused to take up the bill, but the popular tax cut legislation could serve as a vehicle to get lawmakers to pass the jobless pay provision.
Keystone. The Hill reports there is still a (small) chance the Senate could vote on approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline:
Senate Republicans and Democrats are caught in a staring contest over a deal to pass a bipartisan energy efficiency bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has offered to hold a vote the GOP has been demanding for more than a year, but Republicans want more.
Reid has said he’d allow a vote on legislation that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline if Republicans join Democrats in passing a bipartisan energy efficiency bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is blocking the deal, saying members of his caucus deserve at least five amendment votes to the bill.