If you woke up this morning feeling like things in Washington appear to be reversed, you are not alone. As the country inched closer to the debt ceiling deadline, Obamacare delays were coming from the White House while increased spending demands were originating from the House GOP.
Over on the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Administration announced that it would delay implementation of the employer mandate for mid-sized employers until 2016 as well as ease requirements for larger employers. But this is no Republican victory; rather the delay is another notch in a long line of delays the administration has unilaterally decided to implement. Originally supposed to take effect in 2014, the employer mandate requires that all employers with 50 or more employees provide those employees with affordable care or face a penalty of at least $2,000 per employee. All employers were provided relief from the mandate through 2015, and now those with 50-99 employees are not required to comply until 2016. Last week, CBO estimated that the employer mandate would result in $151 billion dollars’ worth of penalty payments over the next 10 years, and warned that the costs of these penalties would be passed through and “borne primarily by workers.”
In an acknowledgment that its policies may actually influence the way businesses make their decisions, the Administration is barring employers, under penalty of perjury, from cutting their staff simply to qualify for the delay. This selective enforcement and botched roll out of the Affordable Care Act continues to select winners and losers – where they only real constant is that the American public continues to lose. While the Administration cited continued pleas from employers for more time to comply with the mandates under the ACA, it remains unclear whether similar pleas will provide individuals with the same relief.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Republicans are living out that old saying – “if you can't beat’em, join’em.” In order to avoid a shutdown confrontation over the debt ceiling, House leadership was pushing a bill to extend the debt limit AND increase spending. The bill would reportedly have reversed the military pension cuts implemented under the budget deal reached in December, when many justified the move to avoid sequestration cuts. However, now it appears those sequestration cuts may not be so bad after all as the House is seeking to re-implement the cuts – but not until 2024 – as a means to pay for the increased spending. Apparently Congress believes that in 2024 the economy and Congress will be in much better conditions to manage those cuts. It quickly became apparent that such a move did not have the necessary votes, prompting Leadership to bring a “clean” debt ceiling deal to the floor and rely on Democratic votes to carry the bill. Yes, once again, our government proves there is one subject they could always agree on, more spending.
But have no fear – at least Congress will be out on recess in time for the long weekend.