The Senate plans to take up legislation this week to tweak the Affordable Care Act’s much-delayed employer mandate for veterans.
The Hire More Heroes Act of 2014 would allow employers to leave veterans out of the 50-count threshold for the employer-mandate requirement, as long as the veterans already have health insurance. Their coverage must either be through TRICARE — the federal veterans’ health program — or through the Veterans Affairs Department.
The employer mandate requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide their workers with health insurance or pay a penalty, which opponents argue could cause employers to cut hours or decline to hire more workers.
Supporters of the bill say it is intended to encourage employers to hire veterans by eliminating the desire to avoid hitting the mandate cutoff. They also say the current level of veteran unemployment is unacceptable.
The unemployment rate for all veterans was 6.6 percent in 2013, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. The unemployment rate for those who served on active duty after September 2001 was 9 percent. The overall U.S. unemployment rate in April was 6.3 percent.
The legislation was introduced by Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, and it easily passed the House on a 406-1 vote in March.
The Senate version is sponsored by Missouri Republican Roy Blunt. It has 38 cosponsors, including two Democrats: Mark Udall of Colorado and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a cloture motion on the motion to proceed Thursday, setting the bill up for a procedural vote this week.
The vote schedule will not be set until after the vote to end debate on the Shaheen-Portman education bill Monday evening, but the earliest the employer-mandate legislation could move would be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed Wednesday, according to a Senate Democratic aide.
The legislation is the vehicle for the tax-extenders bill, the aide said.
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As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."