The House voted Thursday to eliminate language in Obamacare that defines full-time employment as working 30-hours a week, and were joined by 12 Democrats.
Members passed the Save American Workers Act in a 252-172 vote, and sent the bill to a Republican Senate that was expected to try to pass it as well. Every Republican supported the measure.
House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urged members to vote for a bill ending Obamacare's 30-hour workweek, and said Democrats who opposed it were living in a "Fantasyland."
Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill, and the Thursday vote total indicates the House would not be able to override that veto. A two-thirds vote would be needed for an override, or 290 votes.
Republicans have cited the 30-hour workweek as a major problem since the law was first passed in 2010. The law says companies with more than 50 full-time workers must give those workers health care, and because "full-time" is defined as just 30 hours a week, companies have scaled back some worker's hours to less than 30 per week, in order to avoid triggering the health insurance requirement.
The GOP has said that means thousands of workers are getting lower paychecks, causing harm to families across the country. Many Republicans have said the law has created a group of workers called the "29ers," who can only get 29 hours of work per week.
While President Barack Obama has said he would veto the bill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on Obama to support working families by signing it into law.
"Mr. President, you say you care about those who have fallen on hard times," McCarthy said. "Show it, and sign this bill. You say you care about the youth of this country struggling with debt and unable to find jobs. Show it, and sign this bill."
Several Democrats spoke on the House floor during the debate, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who said passing the bill would make it easier for companies to avoid giving workers health care.
"We go from creating 29ers to 39ers," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "This bill will allow you to work 10 more hours without health care. It's that wonderful?"
Several others said there is no problem with worker hours that needs to be fixed. But House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Democrats were ignoring the reality and living in a "Fantasyland" by believing in the sales pitch that was used to pass Obamacare.
"It's this mythical idea in their minds, which was all the rhetoric that was used to sell the law in the first place, and all these good things it was going to do," Ryan said. "The problem is, reality. Look what's actually happening in the real world. People are losing their hours."
The legislation ran into a hiccup on Wednesday, when the Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the budget deficit by $53 billion over the next decade, and leave hundreds of thousands of people without health insurance. That report let several Democrats argue that the bill should be scrapped.
But Republicans noted that the report said most of the deficit would be caused by reduced penalties against companies that are found to be out of compliance with the laws. Because the Supreme Court said the Obamacare mandate is a tax, Republicans see the elimination of those penalties as a tax cut for companies that doesn't have to be offset.
On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved another Obamacare tweak, one that would make it easier to hire veterans. It would do so by letting companies not count veterans as employees for the purpose triggering Obamacare's requirement for those companies to give workers health care.