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The new House operating rules being proposed by the incoming Republican majority would generally require all bills that add to the federal deficit to be offset with new spending cuts. But they have written in a pretty substantial loophole for themselves. Under the rule, the "budgetary effects" of a whole slate of Republican legislative priorities would be exempt from the new offsetting rule, including their bill to repeal the deficit-reducing Affordable Care Act.

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9/11 Health Care Bill Passes Congress

December 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Capping off an unusually productive lame duck session, the congressional Democrats have finally won passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The bill, which would provide health care benefits and financial compensation for first responders at Ground Zero who were exposed to toxins and are now sick, had been the subject of a partisan stand-off for years. Republicans in the House and Senate blocked the bill earlier this year, but yesterday, after everyone from Jon Stewart to Rudy Giuliani to Fox News' Shep Smith joined the chorus calling for the bill's passage, Republicans backed down and let the bill go through.

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Progress for 9/11 First Responders' Health Care Bill

December 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Compensation Act, which would help first responders at Ground Zero who were exposed to dangerous toxins access medical care, has been kicking around Congress for nearly two years. It finally passed the House earlier this fall, but it was recently filibustered by Republicans in the Senate.

Now, the Republicans didn't filibuster this because they hate 9/11 rescue workers. And it's actually not because it would add to the deficit either. It's fully offset. The reason Republicans filibustered the bill is because it would have financed the new health benefits by closing a loophole that allows companies to incorporate in tax havens and avoid paying taxes on business they conduct in the U.S.

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Reading the Bill

August 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] probably did more to craft the health care bill than just about anybody else in Congress. Still, he's catching flack for saying at a townhall meeting last week in Montana that he never actually read the full thing.

Click through for our take -- it might be a small surprise -- or bop over to our micro-publshing account to see what happened over the weekend.

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Senate Democrats are honing in on a compromise for moving forward with the jobs/tax extenders bill. According to Congress Daily, the plan is to soften a provision raising taxes on hedge fund managers who have been paying discount rates due to a loophole in the tax code. Unemployed workers whose health care subsidies were cut during the House's work on the bill would not see any gains under the new compromise.

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The New York Times reveals the next embarrassing mistake with the Democrats' drafting of the health care bill:

It is often said that the new health care law will affect almost every American in some way. And, perhaps fittingly if unintentionally, no one may be more affected than members of Congress themselves. [...]

For example, it says, the law may “remove members of Congress and Congressional staff” from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.

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Native American Health Care Reform

April 8, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The passage of the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) was a very big deal to more than just Vice President Biden – it also represents the successful culmination of years of work on behalf of Native Americans and their allies in both parties. Peppered throughout the bill are numerous provisions that permanently reauthorize and extend a landmark health care law governing American Indians and Native Alaskans that expired in 2001.

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The Budget Reconciliation Cycle Begins Anew

April 6, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Democrats' foresight to included health care reform instructions in the 2010 budget resolution was what really gave them the edge they needed to get their bill out of Congress and signed into law. When Congress comes back on April 12, the 2011 budget resolution will be one of the top items on their agenda. Jon Walker at FireDogLake, who calls reconciliation instructions the "best hope for progressive legislation," is starting to think about what reconciliation items the Dems might include in this year's budget bill.

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Health Care Reform's Public Wellness Measures

April 6, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Outlets like the New York Times and Miller-McCune have done a good job of documenting the many easily overlooked policies aimed at improving public wellness embedded in the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590). These policies range from mandatory calorie counts on chain restaurant menus to the infamous tax on indoor tanning. Are these measures a responsible move by the government to improve public health or another example of out-of-control nanny statism? Here is a closer look at some of these provisions. Take a look and I'll let you decide.

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One of the most important and most controversial parts of the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as amendment by the reconciliation bill, is that it requires all U.S. residents to have insurance or pay a tax penalty. This is known as the "individual mandate," and although it is a Republican idea that has a long history of bipartisanship, both conservatives and progressives have recently focused their criticisms of the law on it.

In reality, it's quite nuanced. The idea of the law is that it will control costs and provide enough government assistance that insurance will be affordable for everyone and that the individual mandate penalty will not have to be used. It will give out billions in "affordability credits" and it includes an economic hardship exemption so that people who can't reasonably afford insurance under the new law won't have to pay the tax. Here's a detailed rundown of how the affordability and individual mandate provisions would work, including, to the extent possible, how much money people will be expected to pay for insurance under the new law.

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Another day, another battle over health care reform. A false claim made by Congressional Republicans that the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) will result in the hiring of 16,000-16,500 new IRS agents, who might possibly be armed, is receiving some high-profile and well-deserved pushback.

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Health Care Reform and OpenCongress

April 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

We built OpenCongress because the government source for congressional information was frustratingly unfriendly, and because we saw the potential for using emerging web tools to make congressional information as open, engaging and helpful as it ought to be. Since we launched more than 3 years ago, we've seen some big issues come and go -- immigration reform, the Iraq war, the financial bailout -- but nothing got people looking for factual information on what Congress was up to as much as health care reform. This past year has been a huge test of where we're at with improving access to Congress.

In the spirit of transparency, here's an overview of how OpenCongress was used during the health care debate.

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Eliminated Tax Subsidy Painted As Obamacare Cost

April 1, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The price of Obamacare is apparently sky-high, according to several corporations. Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar announced that the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) will cost the company $100 million. John Deere expects to lose $150 million and AT&T will take a $1 billion hit.

In context, however, there's less to these costs than meets the eye. Click through for the full story, or head straight to today's edition of Congress Links.

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Health Care Reform and OpenCongress

March 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

We built OpenCongress because the government source for congressional information was incredibly unfriendly, and because we saw the potential for using emerging web tools to make congressional information as open, engaging and friendly as it ought to be. Since we launched more than 3 years ago, we've seen some big issues come and go -- immigration, Iraq, the financial bailout -- but nothing got people looking for factual information on what Congress was up to as much as health care reform. The past year has been a huge test of where we're at with improving access to Congress.

In the spirit of transparency, here's an overview of how OpenCongress was used during the health care debate.

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More than a year after Congress began their health care reform effort, it officially came to an end today as the Senate and House both gave final votes of approval to the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010. The bill amends the bigger health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that President Obama signed into law earlier this week.

The Senate voted first this afternoon, passing the reconciliation bill on a 56-43 vote, with Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE], Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] and Sen. Mark Pry or [D, AR] crossing the aisle to vote with all Republicans agains it. The House followed suit later in the evening, voting 220-207 to agree to the bill and a few insignificant changes that were made to it in the Senate.

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