We all know that Republicans are going to do their best to kill the healthcare reconciliation rider in the Senate. Their latest scheme, apparently, is to claim that the rider affects Social Security, thus falling foul of reconciliation rules. Igor Volsky provides the details:
The most substantive and immediate GOP challenge could occur as early as Tuesday, when the Senate plans to take up the bill. Republicans will try to send the reconciliation package back to the House by citing a rule that prohibits reconciliation measures from making ‘recommendations’ about Social Security. “The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill would have an ancillary effect on Social Security’s trust funds, and GOP lawmakers will argue that such a finding constitutes a ‘recommendation.’” They’ll be arguing that since the excise tax on high cost plans “would cause some employers to reduce the cost of their workers’ insurance and pay them higher wages,” workers would have to pay higher Social Security taxes, which would also have the effect of extending the life the life of the Social Security trust fund by $53 billion.
I'm not sure what to say about this. Volsky quotes Sarah Binder suggesting that Republicans might have a point, but that seems laughably unlikely to me. Seriously, the chain goes like this: (1) rider affects excise tax, (2) excise tax pushes down insurance costs, (3) lower insurance costs lead to higher wages, (4) higher wages lead to higher payroll taxes, and (5) higher payroll taxes affect the Social Security trust fund.
This is mind-bogglingly convoluted. It means that anything that ever had even the smallest and most roundabout effect on wages would be ineligible for reconciliation. Using logic like this, I doubt that any budget bill ever passed has met reconciliation rules.
Honestly, if this is the best Republicans can come up with, they're just desperate. I can't believe there's the slightest chance of the parliamentarian upholding this. And besides, what's the point? If Republicans force Democrats to ditch the excise tax, they'll just pass the rider and send it back to the House with some other tax in its place. Labor unions will be ecstatic. The House will be ecstatic (they didn't like the excise tax in the first place). And Republicans will be responsible for killing one of the key cost control provisions in the bill.
But other than that, it's a great plan.