TOPICS > Politics

CBO report pours fuel on fight over health care law

BY Terence Burlij and Ruth Tam  February 5, 2014 at 9:19 AM EST
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act march in Los Angeles Jan. 20.  Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act march in Los Angeles Jan. 20. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The Morning Line

The finding in the economic report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the Affordable Care Act will shrink the workforce by more than 2 million full-time positions touched off a fresh round of political warfare over the health care law and put to rest any doubt that the program would be a driving force in this year’s midterm elections.

Top Republicans on Capitol Hill pointed to the CBO analysis as further evidence the health care law was a job killer.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “not a surprising report.”

“All the anecdotes you hear all across the country are that premiums are going up and jobs are being lost,” he added.

House Speaker John Boehner followed suit.

“For years, Republicans have said that the president’s health care law creates uncertainty for small businesses, hurts take-home pay, and makes it harder to invest in new workers. The middle class is getting squeezed in this economy, and this CBO report confirms that ObamaCare is making it worse,” Boehner said in a statement.

The National Republican Congressional Committee blasted out a release targeting about two dozen House Democrats for their continued support of the health care law.

The New York Times’ Annie Lowrey and Jonathan Weisman noted that the CBO’s projections were “far more complicated” than the criticism leveled by GOP lawmakers:

The report did say that the law would reduce hours worked and full-time employment, but not because of a crippling impact on private-sector job creation. With the expansion of insurance coverage, the budget office predicted, more people will choose not to work, and others will choose to work fewer hours than they might have otherwise to obtain employer-provided insurance. The cumulative reduction of hours is large: the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer full-time positions by 2024, the budget office said.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats scrambled to frame the numbers in a more positive light with public skepticism of the health care law already high following the botched rollout of the online federal exchange last year.

Jason Furman, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, told reporters at the White House Tuesday that CBO’s job projections were based on Americans having more choices when it comes to employment and how much they’ll work and not businesses cutting back on positions.

“It refutes some of the arguments about how it has hurt the labor market today or will hurt it in the future,” Furman said of the report. “And it confirms what we’ve all known, which is when you do something like that it gives people new choices and new options, and people will sometimes make different choices in the face of new choices and new options.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put a similar spin on the CBO’s findings.

“What they’re saying here is — and the fact-checkers have already done this — the Republicans’ talk about losing millions of jobs simply isn’t true,” Reid told reporters Tuesday. “It allows people to get out of a job they’re locked into because of they have health care in their job.”

When it comes to campaign politics, however, Republicans will have a much easier time fitting their critique into a 30-second television spot than Democrats will trying to condense their explanation of the ACA’s impact on the jobs market.

Democrats seeking re-election in 2014 were already facing a tough challenge given the president’s low approval ratings and polls showing the country sharply divided over the health care law. With Tuesday’s release by the CBO that task is likely to grow more difficult.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity announced Tuesday it planned to begin running an ad in Arkansas attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor for his support of the health care law.

For his part, Pryor released two new campaign ads hitting his likely challenger, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton, for voting “to change Medicare into a voucher system.”

President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats Wednesday at their issues conference in Washington, where he should expect to find himself on the receiving end of venting from lawmakers similar to what followed after the initial health care launch.

While much of talk Tuesday centered on the jobs number, the CBO also updated its projections for enrollment in the health care law in the aftermath of the rocky rollout. Gwen Ifill looked at those figures with NPR’s Julie Rovner.

“They had been aiming for seven million, which was the seven million estimated by the CBO. Now the CBO has rolled that back to six million. That’s just how much they estimate,” Rovner said of the enrollment numbers. “They’re also estimating a million fewer on Medicaid. That’s going to be eight million instead of nine million.”

She added: “However, the CBO is also estimating that those numbers — that we will catch up in future years, so that even though this year, rather than getting seven million people signed up in the exchanges, there will only be six million, that in 2015 and 2016, they will catch up to their estimates for those years.”

LINE ITEMS

  • The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe report that House Republicans are still struggling to “find consensus” on how to approach negotiations with the White House to raise the debt ceiling.
  • The Senate approved a five-year, $1 trillion farm bill Tuesday on a 68-32 vote. The president is expected to sign the measure into law Friday during an event at Michigan State University, the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow.
  • Women’s activist Sandra Fluke declined calls from supporters to run for Rep. Henry Waxman’s congressional seat and announced her plans to run for the state Senate.
  • “American Idol” star Clay Aiken released a video announcing his run for Congress against incumbent GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers. In a recent radio interview, Ellmers dismissed the challenge.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a cloture vote for Thursday on Democrats’ latest effort to reauthorize unemployment insurance benefits for three months.
  • Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., announced Tuesday that he will retire from office amid an ethics investigation. In his 23 years in Congress, Andrews wrote more than 640 bills, yet none of them were signed into law.
  • The Huffington Post found some support in the Senate for Mr. Obama to use an executive order to ban workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal contractors.
  • The Tampa Bay Times reports that a “misleading” website drew an Alex Sink supporter to unknowingly donate to the NRCC. Sink is running against Republican Dave Jolly to replace the late GOP Rep. Bill Young. An earlier version mistakenly said Sink was seeking the seat held by former Rep. Trey Radel.
  • Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told Roll Call that Speaker Boehner should lose his speakership if he pursues an immigration rehaul this year.
  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, got outraised by one of her potential Democratic challengers last quarter. And while that hardly puts her seat on the line, if opponent Shenna Bellows, whose main issue is the unconstitutionality of NSA surveillance programs, continues posting strong fundraising numbers, it could push Collins further to the center.
  • Four same-sex couples sued Wisconsin public officials, including Gov. Scott Walker, in an effort to overturn the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
  • Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn profiled the president’s nominee for surgeon general, 36-year-old Vivek Murthy, who had his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday.
  • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., argued in a hearing on the administration’s marijuana policy that the federal government is implicated in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death because they focus on enforcing marijuana laws at the expense of cracking down on heroin. Across the rotunda, Reid called heroin a national affliction and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he’ll call for a hearing on law enforcement.
  • The snowy owl who graced D.C. with its presence is a she — and she’s on the mend at City Wildlife in Northwest Washington.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death from an apparent heroin overdose, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Sam Quinones of The Los Angeles Times spoke with Jeffrey Brown on Monday about why heroin use has doubled in America since 2007.
  • The federal government is allowing cars to be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle communication technologies and could require such technologies in the coming years. Dan Neil, an auto columnist for The Wall Street Journal, broke down the announcement on Monday’s NewsHour.
  • Russia doesn’t have the best track record on gay rights, but President Vladimir Putin has promised that his country will uphold the Olympic Charter and no one will be mistreated. Jeffrey Brown spoke with Brian Moulton of the Human Rights Campaign and Andranik Migranyan of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation about what gay athletes will face in Sochi.

TOP TWEETS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simone Pathe and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: