House Passes Two Bipartisan Bills, White House Issues Three Veto Threats

The new Republican majority didn’t waste much time getting down to business. Just days after taking their seats the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed two bills to ameliorate troublesome aspects of the president’s health care law.

The first, passed unanimously, was the Hire More Heroes Act, a bill that excludes veterans from the employer mandate if they already have health care through TRICARE or the VA. Obamacare’s employer mandate requires employers with more than 50 full-time workers to provide insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours per week, or pay a fine to the federal government. By not counting veterans as part of the cap, businesses would be encouraged to hire them, an important incentive given the difficulties returning servicemen and women have had finding meaningful work.

“Ultimately, we will only be able to fix our broken health care system by repealing and replacing Obamacare. But until then, this bill makes a fix now that will help our heroes who have served our country from a particularly harmful part of this failed law.”

Just days later House Republicans took a much bigger swing at the employer mandate by overwhelmingly passing a change to Obamacare’s definition of a “full time” worker as one who works at least 30 hours per week. Though presumably well intentioned, that definition created a perverse incentive for employers to cut worker hours in order to avoid the mandate.

Business groups immediately cheered the House’s move to amend the flawed rule.

“Restoring the 40-hour workweek definition is a common-sense legislative fix to the Affordable Care Act that will put more money in the pocket of hard-working Americans and allow small businesses the flexibility they need to manage their workforce,” International Franchise Association President Steve Caldeira said in a press release.

“There’s bipartisan agreement in the House and in the Senate that the 30-hour work week provision of the law was an unfortunate mistake,” National Federation of Independent Business president Dan Danner said.

“[The provision] put pressure on small employers that cannot absorb additional costs to keep more workers under 30 hours. The result is that part-time workers who want more hours can’t get them, and full-time workers are being converted to part-time status,” he continued.

While Republicans were passing a flurry of bipartisan, commonsense legislation the president was equally busy…threatening to veto three bills and issuing 300 new regulatory rules. David Espo and Nedra Pickler report for the Associated Press:

The White House threatened more vetoes Wednesday against top-priority legislation of the two-day-old Republican-controlled Congress, and GOP leaders said they intend to keep challenging President Barack Obama to sign early measures that demonstrate bipartisan support. . .

[T]he Keystone pipeline, proposed to transport oil from Canada to the United States, has been an early flashpoint, and one on which Republicans have allies within the Democratic ranks.

“It’s just wrong. It’s just not the way you do business,” Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said after the White House announced it would veto the measure. “If this is the start of things, it is a sad beginning.”

Indeed it is a sad beginning.

Sad because one of the first things President Obama said following the midterm elections was that “there’s no doubt that there are areas where we can improve” the health car law and that he “look[ed] forward to see what list they’ve got of improvements.” The veto threat makes that promise seem hollow.

Sad because the president said he would veto the Keystone XL bill even though he has not seen the language or allowed the amendment process to unfold. What are Democrats in his own party who support the idea supposed to think, much less members of the new Republican majority?

It’s an inauspicious start to the new year. But unless the president sets aside politics and partisanship to begin working on solutions, it’s likely just a preview of what’s to come.