KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey talks with Politico Pro’s David Nather about developments on the Hill. This week: As Congress returns to Washington, funding for implementation of the health law is expected to pay a major role in the debate over funding the federal government beyond April 8 when the current continuing resolution expires. Separately, House and Senate lawmakers remain at odds over how to finance the repeal of a paperwork provision in the health law known as the “1099” provision that has drawn criticism from small business groups.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Good day. This is Health on the Hill. I am Mary Agnes Carey. As Congress returns from its week long recess, health care matters return to Capitol Hill. Will the House and Senate resolve their differences over how to pay for a repeal of the 1099 requirement in the health law? What role will health care play in the ongoing debate over funding the federal government? With me today to discuss those matters and more is David Nather of POLITICO Pro. Thanks, David, for coming back.
DAVID NATHER: Thanks for having me.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Great! Now as we know, with Congress back in town, they are going to resume debate on the repeal of the 1099, this provision in the health law that says any business that buys over $600 of goods and services from a vendor has to give the IRS a 1099.
DAVID NATHER: Right.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Could you recap for us the differences between the House and the Senate, how they would repeal the bill, how they would pay for it, and where lawmakers might find compromise?
DAVID NATHER: Well, the big issue is just how do you pay for it, because you lose some revenue by doing that. The Senate had passed a version that just said there is some unspent money that the Office of Management and Budget has found, and that is what they will use to pay for it. House Republicans didn’t like that way of doing it, so they came up with a different way, which basically says anybody who is right at the margins of having income too high to qualify for the subsidies, they would have to pay back a lot more of the subsidies and more quickly, so that is how they get the extra money.
Well, Democrats don’t really like that way of paying for it, but that is what the House bill says, so the issue is that they have to find in one identical bill, and both chambers have to pass it in order for it to get to President Obama’s desk to sign. So, right now the Senate is kind of fighting over which version is it going to be? The Republicans would rather just take the House bill, pass it and be done with it.
The Senate Democrats don’t really like the way of getting the money from the subsidies because they think it is too steep, it is too quick a cutoff and it is not fair, but they haven’t really been able to agree amongst themselves about a better way to do it that would get enough votes to defeat the House version. So, they may end up just voting on the House version instead.
MARY AGNES CAREY: This is so interesting to me. You have Democrats who don’t like the 1099. Republicans don’t like the 1099. President Obama wants to repeal it. But why does it seem to take so long to do this?
DAVID NATHER: Well, that is the whole question. This is supposed to be one of the easiest fixes to make, because everybody agrees that it ought to be done, so if they can’t do this quickly, what are the odds of being able to fix bigger parts of the health care law if they don’t work out right?
Well, this just seems to be a classic issue of partisan divide. The Senate and House are divided right now because the Senate is in control of the Democrats and the House is in control of the Republicans. And there is just not enough talking going on between the two chambers to kind of say look, we agree on the goal, why do we have to make the means so hard? They will come to a conclusion one way or another, probably within the next month or two, but they have just managed to make this so much harder than it had to be.
MARY AGNES CAREY: We will stay tuned on that one then. Let’s turn and look at the continuing resolution, or as we call it in Washington, the CR. The current CR expires on April 8th and so over the next two weeks, what role will health care funding play in this debate?
DAVID NATHER: Well, it will probably come up right toward the end of the talks. What they are doing right now is they are trying to get an agreement on one continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of the year. That would be after this current temporary spending bill runs out. What they have to decide is will the final version have any of the writers that House Republicans want to cut off funding for the health care law?
The version that the House passed had like nine different writers to block funding for the health care law in one way or another. The Senate Democrats, of course, are saying no way to that, and they are insisting that the final spending bill shouldn’t have any writers because an appropriations bill just should not have them. But that is really not going to cut it with a lot of the House Republicans who are trying to block the health care law in any way they can. And already one of the most vocal advocates of defunding, a guy named Steve King from Iowa, is saying it has got to be in there. It doesn’t matter if you give us a different vote on defunding on a separate vehicle. He says it has got to be on this one because this is where the House has most of its leverage. If we give up our leverage, then that is just as good as saying it is not going to happen.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Right, so the House Republicans are really going to be pushing for this as part of this final continuing resolution package for the rest of the fiscal year?
DAVID NATHER: Yeah, the Republican leadership is going to be kind of pushed into pushing for this. I mean, Speaker John Boehner has a very practical side to him. People forget that he has been a committee chairman, he does know how to work with both parties and both chambers to come to a successful conclusion. But he has got a caucus full of hardline conservatives and freshmen, especially, who were elected to office on the pledge of blocking the health care law, repealing it or defunding or whatever, so he is going to be under a lot of pressure not to give up too much. If he wants to give up all the writers, he is going to have to find something else to make the conservatives and the freshmen happy, some other separate vehicle, and right now it is really hard to find what that would be.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Well, thank you very much, David Nather, for bringing us up-to-date again. David Nather of POLITICO Pro.