- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Congressional lawmakers, including Democrats, rebuked the White House on Wednesday for refusing to allow tweaks to Obamacare, saying President Obama is reneging on his promise to work to fix problems in the law.

A day after the White House said it would veto a bill to re-establish the 40-hour workweek standard, House and Senate members said they would press ahead and dare the president to oppose them.

The House has a vote slated for Thursday, and Senate Republican leaders said they can’t imagine giving up even after Mr. Obama’s veto promise.

“One of the worst things we can do is destroy the 40-hour workweek, which has been a part of American culture and life for a very long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Under Obamacare, businesses must count as full-time employees anyone who works at least 30 hours a week.

Critics say that is pushing employers to cut some workers’ hours to stay below the threshold for having to comply with the Obamacare business mandate. They want to restore the 40-hour definition.

The Congressional Budget Office said that going back to the 40-hour rule would cost the government about $53 billion over the next decade and kick 1 million people off insurance they now have through their employers. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million people would seek government-subsidized coverage through Medicaid or Obamacare’s health care exchanges.

Undeterred, House Republican leaders urged support of the bill. They cited a study that says Americans making less than $30,000 per year were most likely to have their hours cut because of the mandate, which imposes fines on employers that do not offer insurance.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold its first hearing of the year on the issue, too.

Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, said Mr. Obama’s veto vow seemed to break his pledge to work on needed fixes for the law.

“He initially said, ‘Bring me your ideas,’” she said. “Why he’s shutting it down is beyond me.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana Democrat, said the 30-hour threshold is forcing restaurants, school districts and other employers to cut workers’ hours to 29 or less to avoid the mandate, so it should be reset at the traditional 40 hours.

“We need to make this change as fast as we can,” said Mr. Donnelly, who stressed that he does not want to repeal Obamacare.

He joined Ms. Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, as the chief sponsors of the legislation in the Senate.

The White House argues that the bill would create the problem it intends to solve by exposing an even greater number of people — those who work 40 hours per week — to pared-down hours among employers that try to duck the mandate.

Ms. Collins slammed those warnings as “bogus.”

The budget scoring reflects the number of employers who will refuse to insure their workers and pay a penalty, which she interpreted as an inherent sign that the mandate will not work as planned.

She said employers are committed to offering insurance to workers who put in a standard 40 hours, and that would not change.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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