Congress is in its lame-duck session. One might think that with the mid-term election completed lawmakers might have a simpler time cleaning up some of the less controversial provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (“Less controversial” is a relative term, of course. There’s so little agreement on the politics and public policy concerning health care reform I’m surprised there hasn’t been a law suit filed to determine whether the issue’s should be spelled as “health care” or healthcare.”)
President Barack Obama and a majority of Senators agree that the PPACA’s requirement that 1099s must be filed by businesses (including non-profits) and by local and state governments when expenditures with a single vendor or contractor exceeds $600 is overly burdensome and needs to be greatly modified – or better yet, repealed. Yes, there would be a cost. This provision is expected to generate $19 billion in revenues over the next decade, according to Bloomberg.com. But Senators should be able to find a way to solve the problem without busting the bank, right?
Eventually, but not right now. 67 votes are required to pass an amendment stripping the 1099 requirement from the PPACA. The Senate could muster only 61 votes to save small businesses and others from the financial and administrative nightmare of preparing tax notices to Staples, Google, the local printer, the guy who waters the plants, and, well, you get the idea. 35 Senators voted against the repeal. This vote was on an amendment, offered by Senator Mike Johanns to a food-safety bill. This amendment would have also required the White House Office of Management and Budget to cut federal spending by $39 billion. Another amendment to the food-safety bill by Senator Max Baucus that did not include budget cuts failed on a 44-to-53 vote.
The New York Times reports that one reason cited by some Democrats for opposing Senator Johanns’ proposal was that it granted too much leeway to the administration to determine spending cuts. Such decisions should be made by Congress, they argued. Of course, anyone who has watched Congress over the past, say, 10 years, might question that bodies ability to cut spending on anything, but when the argument of being overly deferential to the Executive Branch is handy, some Senators will grab it. Republicans voted against Senator Baucus’ amendment because it did not offset the $19 billion in lost revenue. Given the unfunded proposals voted on by Congress with great regularity over the past, say, 10 years, that this is a sincere argument is also somewhat suspect.
The good news is that the odds are very good a compromise will be reached and the 1099 provision repealed before this Congress adjourns. At some point politics must yield to common sense and near unanimous agreement on an issue. Doesn’t it?