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September 21, 2014

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GOP lawmakers begin challenge to health care law

The health care overhaul was never expected to go unchallenged in Congress, but this week, lawmakers made an earlier-than-expected move from tongue-lashing to taking actual legal steps to change the law.

Several leading congressional Republicans, including senate caucus chief Mitch McConnell and soon-to-be-House Speaker John Boehner, are filing friend of the court briefs to support a consortium of state attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of the health care overhaul Congress passed earlier this year.

The suit, which Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum filed almost immediately after Obama signed the health care overhaul into law, questions the legality of the participatory mandate. He and 19 other attorneys general – including Nevada’s – say if the government can tax people for not having health insurance, it could force them to buy anything.

But economists supportive of the new law say that requiring participation is the only way to bring about a near-universal health care system, and that a near-universal system is the only way to effectively bring down health care costs – which now amount to a staggering 20 percent of the entire country’s economy.

Republican lawmakers and governors were joined by business associations in filing briefs for the plaintiffs challenging the legitimacy of the health care law. Several Democratic governors from states such as Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon, filed briefs supporting the government and the health care law. Six major hospital associations – representing nearly all hospital care centers in the country – have also filed in support of the government and the health care law. Friday was the deadline for submissions.

Regardless of how this legal process goes however, the GOP is expected to take the opportunity presented by Republicans controlling the House to try to repeal the health care law.

Anticipation of that may be why Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus of Montana announced Friday that he would be introducing a bill to repeal one part of the health care law that has proven to be a lightning rod for controversy: 1099 requirements.

Small businesses have raised a general outcry that the health care bill’s IRS reporting requirements would create a crippling paperwork load.

“I have heard small business loud and clear,” Baucus said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy…and they need to focus their efforts on creating good-paying jobs – not filing paperwork.”

Reid said before the Congressional recess that the 1099 reporting requirements would be a subject Congress would have to address by year’s end.

By striking one of the most widely-criticized portions of the health care law, Baucus’ measure could potentially take some of the venom out of calls for repeal. But it is unlikely to deter House Republicans from attempting to repeal further sections of this year’s overhaul.

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