- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2011


President Obama says he “can’t wait” for Congress to do what it takes to address the jobs situation. Congressional lawmakers will prove this week that it can move pro-growth legislation. On Thursday, the House will take up bills that will repeal a burdensome tax requirement on government contractors and modify health care programs for the better. The White House had no choice on Tuesday but to support these good ideas.

Since 2006, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sought to enact a regulation forcing federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of the payments they owe government contractors, in an attempt to enforce tax compliance. Implementation of this rule has been delayed several times over complaints both from employers concerned they would suffer from the loss of cash flow and from governments upset by the the unfunded administrative burden.

The idea won’t go away on its own. “It hangs out there like a wet blanket over small businesses,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said. “We ought to eliminate some of the uncertainty that’s already out there.” Six hours before the White House announced support for the House bill, the speaker pointed out, “It’s an item that’s in our jobs bill. And it’s an item that’s in the president’s jobs bill as well.”

Just last week, Mr. Obama had issued a veto threat against a Senate Republican effort to combine the repeal with an offsetting reduction of $30 billion in spending. While the GOP picked up 10 Democratic votes in this attempt, they fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

House Republicans sought to get around the presidential roadblock by coming up with an offset Mr. Obama recommended in a plan he released in September. The new legislation would modify the definition used to calculate eligibility for subsidies in Obamacare.

Unlike other means-tested programs, the president’s health care law uses what’s known as “modified adjusted gross income” (MAGI) that is calculated using only the taxable portion of Social Security income. As a result, more higher-income people are finding themselves eligible for health insurance plans intended for the poor, including exchange subsidies, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

The House bill would align the way MAGI is calculated so that all of Social Security income is included to determine qualification for health insurance assistance programs. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the fix would save about $13 billion over 10 years, or a bit more than the estimated revenue lost from stamping out the IRS proposal.

Now that the campaigner in chief will likely find himself signing a business-friendly, pro-jobs piece of legislation in the days ahead, he’s going to lose his favorite new slogan: “We can’t wait,” which is intended to turn the heat on congressional Republicans for blocking more bloated Obama spending bills. As it turns out, yes, he can wait for Congress. There’s no need to bypass the constitutional process with executive orders.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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