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Morning Action: The List of Obamacare Problems Keeps Growing

MEDICAID. States are refusing to sign enrollees for Medicaid due to incomplete information from HealthCare.gov (sub. req’d):

States are warning that they may not process Medicaid enrollments from people who have signed up for the health program through the troubled HealthCare.gov site, raising the prospect that several hundred thousand low-income people who thought they had obtained insurance actually may not have it.

The federal health-insurance site, which serves residents in 36 states, is designed to sell policies from private insurers. But some people who apply for coverage through the site discover they are eligible instead for Medicaid, the joint federal-state health-insurance program for the poor and disabled.

So far, the federal government has been unable to transfer full Medicaid applications to states, potentially leaving people who sought to sign up for Medicaid throughHealthCare.gov without coverage.

MINIMUM WAGE.  A minimum wage hike would hurt jobs and the economy:

President Obama and Senator Tom Harkin (D–IA) support legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by early 2016 and subsequently index it to inflation via the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

This proposal would raise the minimum wage to unprecedented levels. The minimum wage already stands above its historical average. Since 1950, the federal minimum wage has averaged $6.62 per hour in 2013 dollars. It peaked in purchasing power at $8.28 per hour in 1968.

This legislation would raise the minimum wage one-seventh above its all-time high. It would significantly raise the cost of hiring unskilled and inexperienced workers during an already weak economy.

OBAMA.  President Obama decried the income gap in the U.S. but failed to emphasize that the gap has widened under his watch:

The gap between rich and poor that President Barack Obama yesterday called a “fundamental threat to the American dream” has grown during his administration.

The richest 10 percent of Americans earned a larger share of income last year than at any time since 1917, according toEmmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. Those in the top one-tenth of income distribution earned at least $146,000 in 2012, almost 12 times what those in the bottom tenth made, Census Bureau data show.

Much of the gap is out of the president’s control, economists say, citing forces such as globalization and the spread of technology that are overwhelming government remedies. Yet while Obama complains that Republicans are blocking his efforts to boost the minimum wage and provide universal pre-school, other policies that he has enacted such as trade agreements also may have contributed to inequality, they say.

BUDGET.  Budget negotiators are nearing a deal, but it is unclear whether the proposal will pass:

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., are expected to announce a framework in the coming days that would set a top-line number for appropriators higher than the current sequester levels but lower than what Democrats have previously demanded.

According to sources, the increased spending would be offset by less controversial pay-fors, including spectrum sales and some mandatory health care cuts. The two lawmakers have been meeting regularly, including a session Wednesday. Murray attended despite the Senate’s recess.

But many top leadership aides in the Capitol are skeptical that any agreement between Murray and Ryan can pass the House, and those aides feel largely in the dark about what might happen after the deal is struck, with or without successful votes on it in both chambers.Republican leaders have vowed they will not shut down the government again, but how Congress will keep it open remains up in the air.

The other alternative would be to pass a full-year continuing resolution at current spending levels, an action GOP appropriators and Democrats want to avoid.  But such a move could be most reflective of political reality. Senate aides in both parties insist that if the House can pass a CR at current levels, Democrats will have no choice but to approve it, pinned between their previous support of the Budget Control Act and fear of being blamed for a shutdown.

FARM BILL.  Farm bill negotiators are nearing an agreement, but it is not one that will benefit taxpayers, consumers, or small farmers:

Farm bill negotiators broke major new ground toward a long-sought deal, even as a leading agriculture lobby urged rival commodity groups Wednesday to “close ranks” behind a final package this winter.

Staff were closeted still working out the details and much will depend on final scoring from the Congressional Budget Office. But both sides made important concessions in the course of an hourlong closed-door meeting Wednesday of the four top principals from the House and Senate Agriculture committees.

PATENT REFORM. Patent reform has support and opposition from both sides of the aisle:

If you’re trying to handicap Thursday’s expected House vote on a sweeping patent reform bill, leave the party affiliations at the door.

The measure’s chief steward is House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and the committee’s top Democrat, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, is its loudest detractor. But several Democrats have pledged support — including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — while a handful of Republicans still have concerns. And that’s not making things easy on lawmakers who are still figuring out where they stand.

The bill’s chances for passage remain pretty strong, and it cleared committee on an easy 33-5 vote with no Republicans dissenting. But intellectual property issues often stray from party lines, and that dynamic has resurfaced with the six-week-old bill slated for a vote likely Thursday.

 

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