New Orleans Since the Republicans cannot realistically repeal the Affordable Care Act, one of the long predicted and now emerging fights in the new Republican Congress is over the definition of hours as a way to dilute the employer mandate to provide coverage. Currently under Obamacare anything over 30 hours per week requires coverage and essentially defines full-time work. Trial balloons have been floating over the Capitol since the November midterm ass whipping of the Democrats that the first shots would be aimed at pushing the definition of mandatory coverage up to 40 hours.
Now reports from Washington indicate there’s trouble in conservative paradise. It now seems that some of both the young and old lions of the right writing in their bellwether journal, the National Review, are raising warning flags that moving to 40 hours from 30 could be a disaster.
And, this is where the precious irony arises. The political and economic disaster predicted by some of the conservatives is that a 40 hour standard would make it too easy for employers to redefine hours at 39 or anything less than 40 and push millions off of employer provided coverage, the vast majority of whom have it now. And, here’s the pleasure of the paradox, because that would mean these same workers, would find themselves pushed to the Obamacare marketplaces. The Congressional Budget Office says such a move would add almost $74 billion to the federal deficit.
So, if forced by the Republicans into Obamacare, an indirect and previously unanticipated consequence of this hours fight is that the Republicans themselves would have implicitly just further increased the support for Obamacare, because these workers, having had insurance, would be thankful of having something, and ticked off at the Republicans for having upset their lives and health security. No, duh!
I’m not saying the mega-domes of the right have conceded that or fully grasped these implications, but the beginning of the rift between the ideologues and the real policy people among the conservative wing, that is slowing down the train before it runs over the Republican future dead ahead on the tracks, means that full recognition of the impact can’t be far away from them now. Some of them will realize sooner or later that it’s one thing to mess with a bunch of low waged workers trying to make it on less than 30 hours with Obamacare, but it’s a whole different problem at the heart of what’s still out there in the white, working-class conservative base for the Republicans, particularly in the South and Midwest, if the elephant people make millions ride the donkey’s health insurance program, bruised and battered as it already is.
They may be controlling Congress now, but they are about to wake up to the reality of America, and it’s not the spitball fight they have been having for the last six years where the only consequences are a yelling press conference. They mess this up and they will be detained in study hall for a long time, looking at the White House from the classroom window.