Brian Beutler reports on the House GOP’s next trick. Their plan is to find the two worst parts of the President’s jobs bill and deficit plan, and combine them for a package that sounds almost comically silly, but that gives them the talking point that the President supported the component parts:
The piece of the jobs bill Republicans will pass would end a requirement that the government withhold three percent of the cost of projects contracted out to private companies, to assure tax compliance. It’s a rule that Congress adopted during the Bush administration to cut down on tax cheating by government contractors. The near-term stimulative value of repeal is questionable, according to critics, and it’s a permanent repeal — not a holiday. The Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the requirement saves the federal government over $10 billion over 10 years that would otherwise be lost to major contractors.
The new standard on Capitol Hill, though, is that all legislation other than permanent tax cuts for wealthy people must be paid for — typically with cuts to federal programs. So Republicans have selected a provision from Obama’s deficit reduction recommendations that would limit Medicaid eligibility for people who also receive Social Security benefits.
Here’s how it works: The government uses a measure known as Modified Adjusted Gross Income to determine Medicaid eligibility. Currently, though, it only incorporates the taxable portion of Social Security income in that calculation. Under this proposal, it would factor in all Social Security benefits. That means some seniors who currently qualify for Medicaid would no longer be eligible. Doing this would save about $14.6 billion over 10 years — more than the cost of repealing the 3 percent withholding compliance measure.
So it’s a bill facilitating tax cheats, paid for by cutting off Medicaid benefits for poor elderly people.
The Senate voted down the 3% withholding bill last week when it was paid for with less draconian measures (I think an overall cut to general revenue), so there’s not much of a chance of this becoming law. The problem is that it combines two pre-compromised features of past Presidential plans and pronouncements. There are plenty more of them lying around, on Medicaid, on Social Security, on Medicare. You’re going to hear about them more and more as we near the election, and beyond.
And they carry an element of danger. Maybe this doesn’t become a factor in the near term. But over time, the refrain of “even Barack Obama supported” will become more and more familiar. This trail of bad ideas inserted into larger bills to attract Republican support will be a rhetorical nightmare for Democrats for at least the next decade.
It’s hard for me to imagine that nobody realized that if the Democrats put a bunch of Republican ideas in a bill that that once everyone started cherry picking pieces of it that the Republicans wouldn’t be able to find some hideous combinations of regressive policies they can vote for and call it a “jobs bill.” And then claim Obama had already signed off on it and dare him to veto!