House shows early legislative strategy, quickly passes Davis' veterans health bill
The new Republican Congress showed a glimpse of its early legislative strategy Tuesday, when the House passed a bill within hours of being sworn in that had both a St. Louis-area origin and anti-Obamacare tone.
The House approved, 412-0, the Hire More Heroes Act, written by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. A similar measure was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
The bill encourages small businesses to hire veterans covered by the Veterans Administration or military health insurance. It exempts those veterans from being counted against the 50-employee threshold that requires employers to provide health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
It’s an example of the low-hanging, bipartisan legislative fruit that Republicans hope to get quickly passed and sent to President Barack Obama now that they control the House and Senate. The early passage — the Senate is expected to concur and send it to Obama — also provided a glimpse of how Republicans, while trying to show they can govern, will also chip away at Obama’s health-care law.
Davis said before the vote that the nearly five-year-old Affordable Care Act has been riddled with costly delays and “increasing out-of-pocket expenses.”
In an interview after the vote, Davis called his bill a “common-sense fix to a very flawed law.”
“This is an example of bipartisanship and what the American people want us to do, which is to get things done,” he said.
Democrats voted for the legislation while portraying it as a veterans aid bill. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., called the care of veterans the “supreme obligation” of Congress.
Levin said that the Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance for millions of Americans and that Davis’ legislation would help boost employment in an Obama economy already robustly producing jobs.
Davis said the idea for his bill came from Brad Lavite, superintendent of the Madison County, Ill., Veterans Commission, and that its passage was “a great example of ideas being turned into action by this Congress.”
The bill passed the House, 406-1, last March but could not get through the Senate, which was controlled by Democrats last session.
Shortly after they won control of Congress in November, Republicans identified Davis’ bill as a first swipe at the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010 without a single Republican vote.
Republicans have vowed to try to repeal that law, commonly known as Obamacare, while also peeling away one provision at a time. Obama has said he will use his veto to protect the law.
Blunt’s 21 co-sponsors in the Senate are all Republicans, and his announcement that he was reintroducing the measure said the Hire More Heroes Act is “aimed at encouraging companies to hire more American veterans, while providing relief from the burdensome Obamacare employer mandate.”
Telegraphing their next push, House Republicans also introduced legislation Tuesday to approve the Keystone Pipeline, which Obama has vowed to veto.