Thursday, 26 September 2013

House to Vote on Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling and Delay ObamaCare

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House Republicans are maintaining their position on ObamaCare and are launching what is dubbed a “two-front war” on the healthcare law. One week after the House passed a bill that defunds ObamaCare, they are attempting to take a vote this Saturday on a bill that would delay the healthcare law for one year in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. The bill also covers several other issues, including approval of the Keystone pipeline and tax reform.

"I think we ought to really force the effort to delay this individual mandate for at least a year, just as the president unilaterally decided to delay the employer mandate," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Fox News, though he wants to achieve the delay through the budget bill. 

"I think it's very important to give American people the same relief that the president unilaterally decided to give to others," he added.

Meanwhile, the Senate voted on Wednesday to advance the bill to keep the government open past September 30 in exchange for defunding the healthcare law. Democrats are expected to strip the ObamaCare measure from the bill, however, and send it back to the House for another vote.

As noted by Fox News, this will put Republicans in a delicate position:

They could continue to push for anti-ObamaCare provisions in the budget bill. This, though, risks a government shutdown on Oct. 1, as Democrats refuse to go along with any budget bill that defunds the health law. GOP leaders are also exploring adding face-saving options — like the repeal of a tax on medical devices, which many Democrats also oppose — to the stopgap spending bill.

But as an alternative path, Republicans could simply pass a “clean” budget bill, and immediately shift their attention to the fight over the debt ceiling — using that as leverage to push for a one-year delay of the health law.

Treasury officials indicate that the federal government will reach the debt ceiling on October 17, and warn that failure to raise the ceiling could result in default.

Republicans are seizing on the fears that such a warning provokes to attempt to advance their agenda.

However, not everyone is convinced that refusal to raise the debt ceiling will be disastrous.

Ron Ross, writing for American Spectator, observes that the warnings of catastrophe are reminiscent of the story of the boy who cried wolf. He references other similar ominous warnings in Congress of looming calamities and concludes that ultimately such fear mongering leads to “solutions” that are anything but helpful:

We were told in 2008 that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) had to be passed in a matter of hours or days or financial Armageddon would surely follow. In retrospect, that is very much in doubt, to put it mildly. TARP probably caused more damage than it prevented.

The stimulus package was rushed though in the first two weeks of the Obama presidency, again under the guise that we had little choice and no time to debate. We were told that passing the stimulus bill would be the only way to prevent the unemployment rate from exceeding 8 percent. The stimulus bill passed, government spending exploded, and the deficit shot up. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate went well above 8 percent and has remained there.

Once again, the American people are being told that something must be done to avoid a cataclysm, and the solution they are offering is to raise America’s indebtedness. Of course, making significant cuts in spending was only mildly entertained before it was given the heave-ho.

While Republicans are launching their offensive, President Obama continues to promote his signature law before a major provision of ObamaCare goes into effect Tuesday: government-regulated insurance exchanges.

In a recent appearance at a Maryland community college, Obama charged that Republicans are guilty of advancing “misinformation." “The closer we got to this date [October 1, when the exchanges begin], the more irresponsible folks opposed to this law have become,” he insisted.

But while Obama accused the Republicans of misinformation, he delivered his own brand of misinformation in his speech Thursday defending ObamaCare, asserting that “there’s no widespread evidence” that the healthcare law is hurting jobs — even though there are copious reports that show businesses are cutting workers’ hours to avoid the extra costs associated with the law.

The administration is equally insistent regarding the debt ceiling, contending that it should not be used as leverage to secure other provisions.

“The president’s not going to accept [the GOP] proposition. He’s just not,” declared White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “We will not negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills that Congress racked up.”

But House Republicans assert that they are fighting on behalf of all citizens. “The American people don’t want the president’s healthcare bill,” said House Speaker John Boehner.

And despite the Republicans' “two-front war,” Fox News observes that GOP demands on the debt ceiling involve “far less dramatic spending cuts than Republicans demanded from Obama in a debt showdown two years ago.”

Republicans are asking for a 14-month borrowing increase that would raise the debt ceiling by almost $1 trillion, with only minor cuts, including small increases in contributions made by federal workers to their pensions.

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