Vote to delay penalties was not a “vote against Obamacare.”
By Andy Cohen
Congressman Scott Peters appears to have a lot of problems, even before he finishes the first year of his first term. It seems that no matter what he does, he just can’t seem to make anyone happy these days. He’s not conservative enough; he’s not liberal enough; he’s a “corporate shill”; he’s a job-killin’-regulation-lovin’ commie pinko who loves govmint too much…..or something.
It’s no secret that Peters, the representative for the 52nd Congressional District in San Diego, is no far left progressive. He ran as a center left Democrat in a district that oh-so-slightly leans conservative and beat the incumbent Republican. Any truly honest analysis will conclude that he was the right type of candidate for that particular district at that time.
It’s a district with a slight registration advantage for Republicans over Democrats, with a nearly equal proportion of “Decline to State” voters (California speak for Independent), leaving the district roughly divided into thirds. Republicans, not surprisingly are not at all happy about the loss in what was not a good electoral year for them, particularly here in San Diego.
You’d think that the Democrats would be happy with the win and be busily gearing up to defend the seat in 2014 against a known opponent–Carl Demaio– who is sure to be exceptionally well funded. After all, it is pretty much a blessing to know the opposition this far out, particularly one with so many scabs to pick at.
It would be completely expected for bombs to be lobbed in from the right, but attacks are now coming from the left as well. A recent missive from MoveOn.org demanded that Peters explain “why (he) voted against Obamacare,” as if he suddenly joined with the House Congressional Republicans in voting (for a 37th time) to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare).
The vote in question took place on July 17 on H.R. 2668, a House bill to “delay the application of the individual health insurance mandate, to delay the application of the employer health insurance mandate, and for other purposes.”
The bill itself is short, and the text is pretty simple and straightforward: It delays the enforcement date of the employer mandate by one year to January 1, 2015 (which the Obama Administration has already done on its own); delays the enforcement of the individual health insurance mandate by the same time frame; and changes the reporting deadlines for employers and insurance providers by a year.
On the surface this could look a bit dubious, but it’s far less sinister than the MoveOn email implies. The short explanation, according to a Peters spokesman, is that the bill does not delay the law itself, but it does delay when the IRS can start issuing fines for businesses and individuals who choose to ignore the law and not purchase health insurance.
According to spokesman Michael Campbell, the Obamacare exchanges will open as scheduled on January 1, 2014. Individuals without health insurance will be able to purchase their policies from a state run health insurance exchange in states that have chosen to fully participate. California and New York, for example, have already published rates for individuals at significantly lower costs than are currently available; up to 29% lower for individuals age 40 and under in California (although a small handful might see their premiums go up by 2%–Kaiser Permanente was the big disappointment there), with New Yorkers seeing a 50% plunge in their health insurance rates.
H.R. 2668 passed the House with 22 Democrats—including Scott Peters—siding with 229 House Republicans who voted in favor. Only one Republican voted against.
To be clear, a vote in favor of 2668 was not a vote against Obamacare—unless you’re a Republican, in which case it probably was. In effect, though, that’s not the case.
“Scott did vote for 2668, which delays the penalty for not signing up for health insurance until January 2015 from January 2014. However, the vote did not repeal the ACA as some people are falsely claiming,” wrote Campbell in an email exchange yesterday.
Enrollment, he said, will still begin on October 1, 2013, with the exchanges set to officially go live on January 1. Covered California, the name of the California health insurance exchange, should be up and running by then. Federal subsidies for individuals in the exchanges will be available as scheduled, depending on the consumer’s ability to pay.
Peters still fully supports Obamacare, Campbell said, while supporting efforts to improve the law, such as repealing the medical device tax (also supported by Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar).
“This theoretically gives individuals more time to understand their options and decide what plans work for them, and gives HHS more time to set up exchanges in the states that are not creating their own,” wrote Campbell. Not every state is as enthusiastic about Obamacare as California and New York are. But with the results these two heavily populated states are seeing, the hope is that that attitude will change over time.
From the employer perspective, the delay makes perfect sense and allows employers—particularly small businesses with fewer than 50 employees—some extra time to crunch the numbers and determine whether or not it’s actually cheaper to pay the fine than it would be to offer their employees health care, even with subsidies and tax breaks. (See this KPBS breakdown for an excellent explanation of the decision metrics for businesses.)
By the same token, it makes sense to afford individuals the same breathing room given that not all states are as ahead of the curve and New York and California, with some being outright hostile toward the healthcare reform act. “There is still a lot of ambiguity for individuals, and in many states there has been little to no marketing of the health insurance exchange product,” said Campbell.
“The bill was/is certainly a bit of GOP messaging at its core, but also represents a fair opportunity for individuals and businesses after POTUS delayed the employer mandate a year.”
It should also be noted that, Maryland, Oregon, and Montana have all reported significantly lower than expected health insurance rates through their state exchanges.
Chances are iffy at best that H.R. 2668 will even get a vote in the Senate, so really the handwringing over the bill is for naught anyway. But upon further inspection, it would appear that House Republicans might have actually gotten this one right for a change, intentionally or not, and it could make the transition to full implementation smoother and a lot more palatable for everyone. Voting for it was a reasonable thing for Scott Peters to do.
Tom Hunter says
Why would anyone want this job? Lose lose all the way? The DeMaio couldn’t win a fight with a bunny rabbit. The republicans have panicked again, a put fourth a doofus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Debbie Terry says
My bunny rabbit would kick his ass!
Health care is not the only area Peters has been a disappointment. But I’d have to hate America to consider DeMaio. The Devil and the deep blue sea…
Debbie Terry says
I wish Lori Saldana had won the primary. Scott Peters is a DINO. Has been since he time on the City Council. It should go without saying, however that is much better than Brian Bilbray and/or Carl DeMaio
bob dorn says
Peters, in the context of The War on Filner, provides an interesting argument.
Filner, one of the most pro-regulation, socially conscious (if not gender-wise)
progressives has been repeatedly elected and returned to office, while Peters
remains an unknown corporate-leaning softie just starting out on the national
Could it be that it is Filner’s style of Democrat — angry and positioned on the
left — who’s more likely to win votes in a dogfight with Republicans than is the
Peters model, looking to make deals and have a street named after him back
Andy Cohen says
No, not in that district. Lori Saldaña would have gotten smoked by Brian Bilbray.
The electoral makeup of the 52nd District is different from that of the City of San Diego (two overlapping but different constituencies). Dems have a solid registration advantage within the city, but Republicans have the slight edge in the 52nd. It’s the independent votes that decide the election, and most of them are less likely to support a Saldaña/Filner type than a Peters type.
bob dorn says
The questions of electability always become matters for professionals, like yourself, Andy, and that will always involve how much money can be raised, what the pre-polls indicate is a popular or unpopular position, the income distribution, race, males, guns, abortion preferences, Hispanic voters, Jews Italians, potholes… but after the liberal technician lays all that out in front of the old-style Democrat radical, hoping to bury him in official bullshit in the end the technician will make big sweeping statements like, “It’s the independent votes that decide the election and most of them are less likely to support a Saldana/Filner type.” Oh. I see; independents are all moderate, in the middle people. We know for a fact that they’ll elect Nathan Peters, or Peter Nathans.
The argument is over. It’s the middle that counts. Bye-bye belief, principles and the idea of an informed electorate.
Andy Cohen says
The money is always going to favor the Republican in the race. That’s just a fact of modern political life. But in an election, the goal is to earn more votes than the other guy, and in a district like the 52nd, pandering to one’s political base is not the way to do it. It is a very moderate district that is unlikely to swing to one or the other extreme, particularly when offered a moderate choice more befitting of its character. Pandering to the liberal base may work in the 51st District, possibly even the 53rd District, or in a city like San Francisco were Democrats dominate in voter registration, but it will not work in the 52nd.
Andy Cohen says
See my response to Lori below. In precincts where the 52nd and the City of San Diego overlap, Filner lost to DeMaio nearly 2 to 1.
I know, I know…..facts can be so bothersome, can’t they?
bob dorn says
Hey Andy, I think Filner is a more exciting and believable candidate than is Scott Peters. He’s still lots more convincing and exciting than are your stats on voter reg. in a particular district and your self-claimed ownership of facts on how people who “decline to state” their party preferences agree with you.
I was out of town a couple of days ago, or this imposition on your consciousness might have been made earlier.
Debbie Terry says
It really irritates me that Peters always says that he is from La Jolla – like La Jolla is a city.
Doug Porter says
MoveOn exaggerated about the bill.
It wasn’t a plot to kill ObamaCare in one bill, it was part of strategy of a thousand cuts to kill ObamaCare.
Here’s what the NY Times had to say:
After more than two years of voting repeatedly and unsuccessfully to repeal the health care law, Republicans believe they are getting traction thanks to what they see as the Obama administration’s self-inflicted wound over the employer mandate.
House leaders began devising strategies that would most likely start this month with multiple votes, the first to codify the one-year delay on the employer mandate, then another to demand a delay on the individual mandate. They calculate that Democrats would first vote to back the administration’s decision, and would then have a hard time opposing the second measure. Some Republicans raised the possibility that a provision to repeal the individual mandate could be attached this fall to legislation raising the government’s statutory borrowing limit.
“Is it fair for the president of the United States to give American businesses an exemption from his health care law’s mandates without giving the same exemption to the rest of America? Hell no, it’s not fair,” Speaker John A. Boehner told a closed-door gathering of House Republicans on Tuesday, according to those present.
Lori Saldaña says
In case the author has forgotten: Filner endorsed Peters in the primary for the 52nd, so voters went for a “Filner/Peters” type in 2012. It will be interesting to see how that works in 2014.
Andy Cohen says
52nd District registration as of 11/06/12:
Source: SD Registrar Report of Registration as of 11/06/12
Current 52nd District registration:
Source: SD Registrar Report of Registration as of 6/30/13
And you know better than that, Lori. An endorsement does not equate to being similar candidates. In fact, where the 52nd District overlaps the City of San Diego, voters chose Carl DeMaio over Bob Filner by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, despite Peters besting Bilbray in those same precincts.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Andy, your excellent analysis describes centrist Dem Scott Peters’ need to stay squarely illiberal in all things if he wishes to consolidate his hold on the 52nd District seat in Congress. Fortunately, that stance suits him personally. I agree with you: Scott Peters is a perfect fit for the 52nd.
I get upset when he votes — along with the entire San Diego delegation, including Dems Susan Davis and Juan Vargas, in favor of unrestrained NSA spying on Americans. But hey, it’s the price you pay for not having a Carl DeMaio or Brian Bilbray or Randy “Duke” Cunningham in there.
Scott probably should keep an eye on new Dem Nathan Whatsisname, though. He’s another smooth operator who also could appeal to a lot of my La Jolla neighbors.
Bundler Christine Forester is already raising big bucks for Nathan to emerge from the private sector and a Qualcomm sinecure to replace Mayor Bob and return City Hall to the special interests.