Yuval Levin asks a good question at The Corner today regarding a proposal made by John Boehner and Mitch McConnell as part of the new GOP agenda. It involves doing some editing to Obamacare, redefining the work week from 30 hours to 40.
The first thing Levin wants to know is why the GOP is toying around on the margins and talking about this sort of fine tuning to the law rather than working to repeal the individual mandate in its entirety. Given much of the bravado we heard from Republican candidates on the 2014 campaign trail, it’s a question which I’m sure we’ll be hearing repeated during debate on the Senate floor, assuming this makes it to that stage. I suppose the answer to that part of this particular debate is, are they trying to put on a show to make a statement for the base or are they trying to actually fix something?
If it’s the former, then by all means they should abandon this tinkering tactic and take a run at the individual mandate. It was upheld in the Supreme Court as a “tax” but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be removed via legislation in the same way that it was summoned into existence. But such an action requires either the President’s signature or far more votes than exist even in the reconstituted Senate to override a veto, so it would be window dressing at best.
But looking at the other route, is this something that needs fixing? Under examination is the portion of the law which defines the “full time” workers affected by Obamacare as those who work at least 30 hours per week, rather than the 40 hours normally worked by most hourly, non-salary employees. Obamacare’s authors defined it this way to make it more difficult for employers to duck out of the law by simply reducing workers’ hours by one or two per week. But employers – at least in some cases – responded by laying off full time workers (or cancelling new hires) and filling those jobs with part time workers putting in 25 hours.
I suppose a change such as this might result in some few workers either getting more part time hours or being hired for 35 hour per week jobs, but I don’t know how much that benefits the individuals or how many additional jobs we would be talking about. Honestly, I’m not hearing a very good explanation yet as to why this is a priority. I’m generally not in favor of wasting the public’s time voting on showboat legislation, but in this case, if they’re going to do anything, they may has well just shoot down the mandate and let Obama veto it.