Legislative Update – The Fight for Working Families Continues


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Your Calls Made a Difference in Effort to Save the ACA

The first nine months of the Trump administration and the 115th Congress have been a roller coaster for working families. With conservatives in firm control, we have had notable setbacks with harmful long-term consequences. Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed, despite our opposition, to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, giving the right wing a 5-to-4 majority. Throughout his career, Justice Gorsuch consistently ruled in favor of the well-connected. He sided with employers who cheated their employees out of wages and with companies that were penalized for unsafe working conditions that, in one case, led to a death.

In another setback, workplace safety standards were gutted as companies can now get away with keeping their records of accidents and fatalities for a mere six months instead of five years. It will now be harder to prevent injuries and keep a safe workplace as some dangers go undetected.

Fortunately, legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut Medicaid failed in the Senate after passing the House of Representatives in May. The House bill passed despite all Democrats and 20 Republicans voting against it. That bill would make us pay more for less coverage to give billions in tax breaks to corporations and millionaires. According to nonpartisan experts, it would have forced 22 million Americans to lose health care coverage and caused premiums to rise by 20 percent.

Thankfully, the Senate defeated it by one vote in July as millions spoke out against it. We strongly opposed it, with tens of thousands of UAW members and retirees telling their members of Congress to reject the bill. Governors from both parties and a wide range of groups including AARP, the American Cancer Society and several organizations representing doctors and hospitals were against it. All 48 Democrats and three Republicans voted no.

When Congress returned in September, there was yet another attempt to drastically cut health care coverage and undermine hard-fought victories made over the past several decades. But that attempt failed in late September as at least three GOP senators said they would vote against it, and all Democrats held firm in their opposition. The administration has also held back on making payments to insurers that allow people to have affordable coverage. They have little interest in enforcing the law. In fact, they have gone out of their way to sabotage it by making it harder to enroll and receive affordable care.

Medicaid and Medicare will remain prime targets for radical cuts by the far right, which does not believe in ensuring that all people have affordable, comprehensive health care. Medicaid matters to us all because it is the single largest payer for nursing home and long-term care. It covers nearly 70 million Americans, including 33 million children. Forty percent of veterans and their families solely rely on it for health care and could lose coverage.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has put forward proposals to cut Medicare benefits and raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67. These bad ideas would harm working families with coverage and lead to seniors not receiving care when they need it the most.

The debate over health care will continue as Congress votes on a 2018 budget and must pass legislation to keep the government running, pay our debts, and continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP provides medical coverage for people under age 19 whose parents earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for private coverage. Millions of children could lose health care coverage if the program isn’t extended this fall.

The right wing is also planning on passing trillions in tax cuts with roughly half going to the top 1 percent, according to draft plans put forward by President Trump and the Republicans in Congress. The top 0.1 percent (whose annual incomes exceed $3.8 million) would get tax cuts totaling more than $800,000 a year on average. The right wing’s tax plan would also make it easier for corporations to keep overseas profits, giving corporations even more tax incentives to offshore our jobs.

These proposed tax cuts for the rich impact all of us because the result is a budget shortfall that would likely be filled by spending cuts that hurt our most vulnerable citizens, working families and retirees. According to the Tax Policy Center, when expected cuts in programs are accounted for at least 75 percent of households would be net losers.

While the future is unknown, one thing remains clear: We must continue to raise our voices and demand that politicians in Washington vote for policies that are good for all of us and not just the most powerful.

Source: UAW Legislative Department


Photo by Calleamanecer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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